MONROE – Ever since she was a “little girl,” Elinor Washington loved making quilts. But quilt making was just a hobby for the 88-year-old Monroe resident until she decided to use her talent and skills to minister to others facing hardships.
About two years ago, Elinor’s 89-year-old husband, Fredrick, had a very sick cousin in Florida. The couple decided to make a quilt for her, sending it with a special note. When the cousin received it, she was “overjoyed,” the couple said.
“She ended up spreading it out on her lounge chair and would wrap herself up in it if it was raining or storming,” Elinor Washington said. “She said, ‘I always feel so safe. So safe and so comfortable.’”
The Washingtons realized how a simple act of kindness could go such a long way, and the idea of using quilts to reach others facing tough times grew.
Since 2011, the couple has made 37 quilts, sending them as surprise gifts to carefully selected recipients – friends and family members facing illnesses, adult children caring for their ailing parents and individuals facing an emotional crisis. The two also made a red, white and blue quilt recently for a 90-year-old disabled veteran living in Monroe.
“We wanted to make a quilt for a service member who was incapacitated,” Fredrick Washington, a former Marine and World War II veteran, said. “We wanted to find somebody like that and make a quilt for them.”
Every quilt the couple makes is started with a specific person in mind. The two embody their prayers and good wishes in each quilt as they craft it, their daughter, Norie Sanchez, said.
The art of making the quilts is truly a family affair. The Washingtons spend time picking out fabrics from their “stash” – a room full of fabric they’ve collected over the years – and choose colors they think “look like the person” they’re making the quilt for.
Sanchez and the couple’s other daughter, Janice Ulrich, help cut the fabric, while Fredrick arranges and Elinor sews. Together, the team can knock out a single quilt in about three days.
“In the end, it always comes together,” Sanchez said. “Art is a huge part of it. They’ve got to be ‘in the groove’ to make it come together.”
Fredrick and Elinor, who’ll celebrate 67 years of marriage on Oct. 28, plan to continue making the quilts “as long as (our daughter) keeps cutting,” Elinor Washington said. “You cut one quilt, you finish it and make another one.”