Quilting for comfort: Love shared for Sandy Hook victims

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

The Dec. 14 shootings at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School had a profound effect on Fulton’s JoAnn Scales.

“Sitting there, watching [the news], I kept having to breathe in and breathe out because of the tragedy of it,” she said.

Although Scales knew nothing she could do would lessen that tragedy, which left 26 people dead, many of whom were small children, she had to do something. She felt that weight fall upon her.

“Those babies left home, kissed their mamas, their mamas kissed them and they never came back home,” she said. “I was sitting here, watching TV and the Spirit said to me, ‘You’ve got to make another quilt.’”

So, that’s exactly what she did: She made another quilt.

Charitable quilting is nothing new for Scales, who, for the past several years, has been creating and donating quilts to various groups who have undergone a tragedy or catastrophe. In 2011, for example, she crafted a quilt for the tornado-devastated town of Smithville.

Scales said it’s a way to show those suffering tragedy that people out there are thinking of them.

A deeply spiritual woman, Scales said she turned to the divine for inspiration. She said she asked the Lord what color the quilt should be and He told her, “red.” When she inquired about the pattern, hearts came to mind. Love, she said, is what she wanted to send to those who had lost so much.

Using an advertisement pulled from a newspaper, Scales cut the shape of a heart to use as a pattern. Then, she went to work.

The finished quilt features a pattern of red and white and is covered in hearts. Stitched inside each of these is the name and age of one of the individuals killed during the shooting.

When she was asked how long it took her to create the quilt, Scales said she wasn’t sure.

“I can’t really capture time,” she said, explaining that she would work on it off and on whenever she had free time. With a subtle shrug, she offered, “Maybe two weeks.”

She plans to mail the quilt to the administrators of Sandy Hook Elementary School in the coming weeks.

When they open the package, she hopes they feel the love and support she’s sewn into it.

“I hope their hearts just open up and they feel my love,” she said.

In a way, there’s an amazing power in tragedy: It generates empathy and brings people together from across the world. Scales said that’s not a wholly terrible thing.

“You can take something bad and see good come from it,” Scales said. “Don’t feed into this stuff; don’t allow people to make you hate … We’ve all got to enjoy every day.”

That’s why Scales quilts. It gives her the power to feel a bit better about the awful things that happen in the world. She’ll never be able to stop school shootings or tornadoes, but she can send a little bit of love to those affected by those things. She might not know a single one of them, but that doesn’t mean she’s not affected by their suffering.

“I’m just as close to those babies as if one of them, or all of them, had been mine,” she said of the kids of Sandy Hook. “We’re all God’s children.”

In other words, that quilt isn’t just for them.

“This was for my heart, too,” she said.

adam.armour@journalinc.com