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TTU News

A new program that brings the community together with artists from the Appalachian Center for Crafts, a satellite campus of Tennessee Tech University, may redefine the meaning of the phrase ‘community outreach project.’

The “Quilts for Kids” program was started earlier this year to provide not educational outreach, but bedding to children in DeKalb County who’ve been removed from homes where methamphetamine has been made.

Because the manufacture of the highly addictive illegal drug creates a toxic environment, children removed from such homes aren’t allowed to take any personal possessions with them.

So Craft Center representatives and community volunteers spent a couple of days quilting recently in the DeKalb County facility’s conference room, and the fruits of their labor — a total of 33 completed quilts — were delivered Monday to the DeKalb County Department of Human Services.

“We started this project earlier this year after we learned that 60 children in DeKalb County in 2004 were removed from homes where methamphetamine was being produced — and officials say the number is expected to increase this year,” said Gail Looper, gallery manager and project coordinator.

“Our goal with this project is to be able to give a new, handmade quilt or blanket to every child in the county who is removed from a meth home,” she continued.

With last week’s delivery, project participants are already more than halfway to realizing that goal, and Looper says she is both surprised and thrilled by the results.
“The community response has been phenomenal,” she said.

Craft Center students, faculty, staff, friends and several Putnam and DeKalb County businesses — including Food Lion, Food Center, Fred’s, Family Dollar, Smithville Pamida, Hancock Fabrics, Gridge’s, Cookeville Big Lots and Algood Wal-Mart — donated fabric, sewing tools or other items to the project.

“This project would not have come to pass without the help of two very special people — Smithville attorney Chris Cantrell, who has been involved since the program’s inception, and Cheryl Ludwig of the Craft Center maintenance staff, who tirelessly solicited donations from individuals and business on behalf of these children in crisis,” Looper said.

Another day of quilting will be planned in late summer, when Craft Center students return for the fall semester.

Until then, donations of new, unused quilts and crocheted and knitted blankets are being accepted at the Craft Center or at Webb’s Gifts on the Smithville courthouse square.

To get to the Craft Center, take Interstate 40 to Exit 273, go south toward Smithville for about six miles on Highway 56 and turn left immediately after crossing Hurricane Bridge.

For more information about the “Quilts for Kids” program, call the Craft Center at 931/372-3051 or 615/597-6801.