A Hobby That Helps

A local quilt guild will be presenting handmade quilts to the
children currently residing at Chamberlain’s Children Center next
week, ensuring none of the youngsters go cold this holiday
Hollister – A local quilt guild will be presenting handmade quilts to the children currently residing at Chamberlain’s Children Center next week, ensuring none of the youngsters go cold this holiday season.

“These kids have had to go through a lot of trauma,” said Dennis Reeves, owner of local quilting store Homespun Harbor and a member of Chamberlain’s board of directors. “Something like a specially made quilt is really going to mean something to them.”

Chamberlain’s is a last-chance home for children with behavior problems – most are victims of severe child abuse – who cannot be placed in conventional foster care. Staff at the center focus on teaching social skills so that one day the children can attend public school and be placed with a family.

Reeves said he was first exposed to Chamberlain’s through his enrollment in Leadership San Benito County, which raised money for a new fence and playground for the children. Over the summer, after earning a position on Chamberlain’s board, he approached the Pinnacle Quilt Guild about making holiday quilts for the 24 children.

The Pinnacle Quilt Guild, a San Juan Bautista–based club with over 100 members from around the county, agreed to take on the project and asked Chamberlain’s for the age and interests of each child.

“There are sports quilts and racing quilts,” said Lorraine Yates, Community Service Chairperson of the quilt guild. “There’s horses and SpongeBob, and one of the boys wanted a Raiders quilt.”

Each quilt took months to make. Some quilters chose to work on their own, while others worked in teams of up to 25.

“We’re proud of all our quilters,” Yates said. “The quilts are beautiful, and everyone put a lot of time, effort and money into them. It isn’t cheap to make a quilt any more.”

That effort is sure to make all the difference in the world, said Doreen Crumrine, director of Chamberlain’s.

“The biggest benefit is that these kids can take ownership in something specially made for them,” she said. “Most kids come here with little or nothing at all of their own. A quilt will give them security – when they leave they can take it with them… Developmentally, that’s something they should have had years ago.”

According to Crumrine, Christmastime can be especially hard on displaced children because many are reminded of their disconnection from family.

In order to combat those feelings, Chamberlain’s works with the community to make sure their children have as happy a holiday as possible. Santa comes to visit, and a group of students from Anzar High School make and stuff stockings for the children to find Christmas morning. The students also host a gingerbread house-building party for the kids. The children open presents under a tree, just like kids the world over on Christmas, and have a traditional holiday dinner.

“We try to keep it as family-like as possible,” Crumrine said.

While presents certainly aren’t the focus of the season, Crumrine said that receiving gifts is important for all children, not only those who have been displaced.

“It’s important that all kids feel special, and a family member or friend taking the time to give a gift reminds them that they’re special,” she said. “A gift like a quilt has huge benefits for our kids, emotionally and socially.”

This isn’t the first service project the guild has undertaken since they formed just over a year ago. Guild members have provided quilts for young mothers in need, hurricane victims, and wrapped stuffed animals in homemade quilts to be distributed at Marley Holte’s annual Christmas dinner for the needy.

Chamberlain’s also runs a small emergency shelter for children and teens who are no longer safe in their homes, and has a school for its residents and a handful of special needs children from the outside community, among other services.

For those looking to help support Chamberlain’s, volunteer labor is needed to help construct a new playground. The center is also looking for volunteer mentors age 21 and older who are willing to make a commitment to befriend a child.

“We’re developing our organization more formally,” said Crumrine. “The community has been so supportive that we’re organizing new ways for people to help besides donating money and goods.”

To donate or volunteer, Chamberlain’s can be reached at 636-2121.

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