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Mar 11, 2012 10:30:00 AM

Comforting, one quilt at a time

Originally printed in the San Diego Union Tribune | March 11th, 2012

Janette McGarvie has made hundreds of quilts over the years for refugees and for wounded servicemen and women. Peggy Peattie ...Name: Janette McGarvie.

Age: 73.

Job: Retired.

Neighborhood: Has lived in East County for more than 40 years. Currently in the Blossom Valley area.

Family: Husband, Jim, two sons and two grandchildren.

Q: How did you start making quilts for charity?

A: Several years ago, I heard a presentation by Gary Becks and Wendell Cutting about their organization Rescue Task Force. They responded to disasters around the world offering aid and comfort.

At that time, I was making baby quilts and donated several of them. In 2005, they went to Afghanistan to help refugees that were living in tents. The young women who were raped by the Taliban were living in a tent area and having their babies without medical help. They tried to get the mothers to come to the military medical facility, but the mothers were afraid.

A young mother who had her baby and was very ill did come into the facility. She was given one of my quilts and a matching tote bag of medicine for her and the baby. The very next day, 18 young pregnant girls were lined up outside the door.

Later in 2005, Gary and Wendell went to Honduras, where an outbreak of Dengue fever had left 27 children orphaned. They built and furnished an orphanage and asked if I could make each child a quilt for Christmas. In the years that followed, they distributed 100 or more quilts to help boost hopes and remind people that they are not alone in their struggles — not only in Honduras, but in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Burma, Tijuana, Peru and New Orleans for Katrina victims.

Q: What have been your most gratifying moments?

A: My most gratifying moments are when I receive pictures from all these areas showing the mothers’ and children’s smiles. That’s my motivation.

Q: And when did you begin quilting for wounded troops?

A: In 2007, Rescue Task Force was involved with a program called Project Not Forgotten. Their goal was to give each returning injured hero a backpack filled with personal items and a cellphone to call home. Gary asked if I could make a lap quilt for those in wheelchairs. Thus began a new project for me.

They have delivered backpacks with a quilt to Walter Reed, the Army Burn Center in Austin, Texas, and to the San Diego Naval Medical Center.

The backpack program is now under the direction of Nice Guys of San Diego, and the backpacks are distributed through the Armed Services YMCA at the local naval hospital. The YMCA was told to expect about 200 injured between April 2011 and April 2012. This news was a little overwhelming, so I appealed to my quilt friends at the Stitching Sister Quilt Guild for help.

Q: How is the effort at this point?

A: With help from friends, the Warm Company (which donated the batting) and discounts from Yardage Town on Broadway in El Cajon, I am able to deliver many more quilts.


Every quilt is unique, reflecting the material that has been donated.

One volunteer at the YMCA was stopped by a young lady who said her husband was recently transferred from Walter Reed. He was very depressed and did not want to go to rehabilitation and receive prosthetics for his missing legs. She put his quilt on his lap and wheeled down to rehab. The next day she went to get him and the nurse said he was “out wheeling around the hospital sharing his quilt.” He spoke with other Marines about their experiences with prostheses and changed his mind. His wife said the first day he moved into their apartment, he hung his quilt on the wall and called it his “lifesaver.”

Q: How do you find the time for charity work?

A: I have often heard the expression, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I guess I find time for all my interests by being organized. I love to work in my yard, travel, volunteer at the Commemorative Air Force and the San Diego Off-Road Coalition, camp in Ocotillo Wells, and quilt.

Q: What is your advice to people wanting to make San Diego a better place?

A: Find something you are passionate about and volunteer. For me, I’m a patriot with a passion for quilting.

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