Stitching comfort

Killer Bees Quilters create quilts for youngest domestic violence victims
By Caroline Klapper | Feb 08, 2013
Photo by: Caroline Klapper Juanita Shade, a member of the Killer Bees quilting group, sews a label on one of the handmade quilts.

Victims of domestic violence are often forced to leave their homes with little but the clothing on their backs when they are finally able to flee the abuse.

It’s a frightening situation for an adult, but for the many children who are caught up in the cycle of violence, it is a terrifying ordeal that can leave them feeling scared, lost and confused.

While nothing can erase the trauma children experience in such situations, a group of Haywood County women are making sure the youngest victims of domestic violence can at least find some comfort in a soft, colorful quilt made just for them.

For the past 12 years, the Killer Bees quilting group has gathered together at least twice a month to design, cut, piece together and sew quilt after quilt after quilt. While these quilts could easily be sold as works of art or given as special gifts to friends and family, the Killer Bees have another mission in mind.

The group donates all of the quilts they make to REACH of Haywood County, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The quilts are made specifically for the children who are caught up in a domestic violence situation, and the women who make up the Killer Bees do their best to make sure each quilt is as colorful, beautiful and full of caring as they can make them.

“I think there’s a lot of love in these little blankets,” said Killer Bee member Christa Malone as she worked on her latest quilt.

While all of the members of the group are well aware of why they put so much time and effort into each quilt — more than 100 every year — Malone keeps a vivid reminder at home.

“I have a picture of a mom with two little kids with nothing on but jackets and shoes. Here, they’re coming with nothing, but this is something they can call their own,” she said gesturing to a quilt with the emotion of the idea clear in her voice.

The group was founded by Cheryl Hartman, a former REACH board member, who has heard more than her share of tragic domestic violence stories.

“It’s so traumatic psychologically and mentally to be removed from your home,” she said, explaining that she wanted to find a way to provide some sort of comfort for the children in that situation.

Hartman’s basement has been converted into a workspace and storage area for the Killer Bees, and the group usually meets there twice a month to work, trade ideas and tips and enjoy each other’s company as they work for a cause they all care about.

Quilting is a hobby Maggie Hickle enjoys anyway, but creating quilts for a good cause makes it even better in her eyes. She said the children who receive the quilts feel better “knowing somebody has cared enough to make it for them, and they’re worthy of it.”

Diane Davis, another former REACH board member, said she’s seen first hand what happens when a child gets one of the Killer Bees’ quilts, often after leaving their homes with nothing.

“They’re just floored when they get a quilt, and they get to take it home,” she said.

“The board is just incredibly impressed with what these ladies do,” said Juanita Shade, a Killer Bee member and a current member of the REACH board. “These ladies often make Martha Stewart look like nothing.”

Killer Bee Nancy Kolenbrander specializes in quilts for boys, finding patterns in things most boys seem to like, such as cars and superheroes.

“I’ve been having fun,” she said.

And it is clearly fun for these quilt-happy ladies.

“It’s a social thing, too,” Shade said.

During the three-hour gatherings, the women talk, eat, laugh and share their best tips for creating their finely crafted quilts.

“It’s a learning thing for all of us. We share ideas, come up with new things and also take turns (working on a quilt),” said Carole Williford. “It’s a team effort.”

“You might get two or three of us working on one quilt,” Hickle agreed.

All of the women spend time at home continuing to work on quilts on their own, and the results speak for themselves.

Beautiful finished quilts that just about anyone would be proud to display are folded and delivered to REACH with the same care that went into making them. Each quilt has a label sewn onto them that reads, “Made especially for you by the Killer Bees, Waynesville, N.C.”

“There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into it,” Hartman said. “(The children) are very happy to have them, and it’s a great comfort.”

The Killer Bees are always looking for new members and are also accepting donations of fabric or other quilting supplies or monetary donations.

For information, call Cheryl Hartman at 421-1267.