When Russia declared war on Ukraine in February of 2022, the world watched in despair as Russian troops began invading and Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes and country. Many refugees have fled to surrounding countries such as Moldova, Romania, Poland, and countless others throughout Europe.
An immeasurable number of countries and people worldwide have shown their support and provided help for the Ukrainian population through donations, food, and shelter. And after learning from connections in Poland that people were escaping the war with just a small backpack or suitcase, Beth Hawkins and Gina Halladay felt inspired to help.
Answering the Call
Both long-time quilters, Halladay and Hawkins knew that there was a unique opportunity to do more for Ukrainian refugees than money alone would provide. After working together in the quilting industry for many years teaching quilting classes and selling fabric, the two women decided to call upon their quilting network to donate quilts to Ukrainian families in need. And the Wrap Ukraine with Quilts initiative was born.
“We felt inspired to do something and wanted to let these Ukrainian families know that we see and care about them,” says Halladay.
For Halladay, the desire to help is deeply personal. Her husband and son biked through Ukraine and Poland in 2021 and met many residents of the two countries during their journey, with whom they have kept in contact since. Halladay and her family also have many business associates and friends from Ukraine.
One of those friends is a Ukrainian named Nataliya Zahayska, who was living in Lviv, Ukraine, before Russia declared war.
“She fled Ukraine a week after the invasion with her daughter (10) and son (12), her 70-year-old father, 13-year-old goddaughter, and her friend with her three kids,” says Halladay. “She arrived safely in Poland and continued to Spain, where her brother lives. While it is awesome that she is safe, she left her husband and 22-year-old son back in Lviv to fight and help others reach Poland.”
Giving by Quilting
Hawkins and Halladay knew that they could count on the quilting community to respond to their request for donations, and they have not been disappointed.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, many quilters have jumped into action to sew handmade masks for others,” says Hawkins. “With everything going on in Ukraine, we wanted to know that we could do something to send them some comfort and show that we care about them. We decided to collect and send the unique gift of a homemade quilt. We know quilters. Quilters are givers.”
Before the Ukraine invasion, Hawkins and Halladay were planning to launch a new quilting venture, HelloCottons.com. But once the news of the invasion broke, the two pivoted the launch to provide Ukrainian refugees with handmade quilts. On March 17, 2022, the two women shared their first post on Instagram for the Wrap Ukraine with Quilts initiative.
“Without really having any sort of plan, we put it out there on our social media, sent a few emails, and asked for quilts,” says Halladay. “We very quickly started getting quilts dropped off at my house and began receiving packages from all over the country.”
Stitching with Love
Since their initial post and website launch, Halladay and Hawkins have collected about 4,000 quilts.
“We receive donations daily,” says Halladay. “The most we have received in one day was over 700 quilts. We had fellow quilters travel from Idaho to Utah to deliver over 100 quilts that filled the car to the roof!”
Hawkins adds, “The response has been amazing. Quilters truly are givers in the best way possible. These are not the quilts you find in the store. They are often handmade, and they are created with love.”
According to Halladay and Hawkins, they have now received thousands of donated quilts from at least 24 states around the country. In April, Halladay’s husband traveled to Poland to hand deliver quilts to refugees and spend time volunteering at food trucks and refugee centers.
Since that trip, support for Wrap Ukraine with Quilts has grown beyond the quilting community. Hawkins and Halladay have received help with their mission from individuals who have helped with their website and social media pages, connections in Moldova, Romania, and Poland to help distribute more quilts, and collaboration with an organization called Lifting Hands International.
In addition, others have donated money directly to the Wrap Ukraine with Quilts via the HelloCottons website or through their Venmo to help with shipping costs to ensure that donated quilts are sent to refugee areas for the Ukrainian people.
For Halladay and Hawkins, their efforts to help Ukrainian refugees is all about sending love and providing a personal touch.
“We realize we may not make a dent in impact, but the goal is to impact one person’s life for the better,” says Halladay.
“As you stitch and sew that quilt, you think about who this quilt is going to, and it is really powerful to think about,” says Hawkins. “Quilts are often more than just fabric. And I believe all of that love, thought, care, and concern is stitched into that quilt, and it can be felt.”
Visit hellocottons.com to donate quilts or money for shipping costs and watch the video below to learn more.
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