Jefferson Awards for Public ServiceBy Sharon Chin

(KPIX 5) — When there’s a crisis in her community, an East Bay woman is known for turning to her sewing machine for ideas to help.

Meredith Johnson runs a group called Happiness is a Warm Quilt, which she founded in 2017.

Johnson coordinates volunteers nationwide to manufacture quilts and pillow cases, contacting them through friends, Facebook, and her church group, the Gifted Quilters Guild in Newark.

Together, they’ve sewn and given for free nearly 2,000 quilts and more than 1,000 pillowcases to survivors of the North Bay and Butte County wildfires.

“We’re giving these to people with no strings attached, other than you have to love it,” Johnson said.

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Jeanne Azevedo is re-building three years after the Sonoma County wildfires destroyed her house. One of the items that will “bless her home” is a brand-new quilt from Johnson’s group.

“I could see it in our house,” Azevedo said. “It just feels like it’s filled with love as well.”

Most of the quilts are large, to fit over a bed. And Johnson insists people choose what they want.

“It meant so much more than just, ‘Here’s a nice quilt, here’s a nice gift.’ We were giving them back their family history,” Johnson explained.

She is also spearheading a project to sew masks to protect health care workers from COVID-19.

Emily Simino picked up 500 masks for Compass Cares which serves the developmentally challenged.

Johnson’s family is a client and she’s pledged 2,000 masks for Compass.

“She’s so generous,” Simino said. “It just means a lot that she would be willing to do that for us.”

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Volunteer quilters like Kathy Duncan are amazed at Johnson’s organizational abilities.

“She takes on all these projects. I don’t know how on earth she does it,” Duncan said.

Volunteer Marian Andrews is thankful for a chance to give. “It makes my heart feel good. I love doing things for people,” Andrews said.

From washable masks to quilts that would retail up to $1,000, Johnson and her volunteers sew kindness.

“You can tell that it comes from their heart as well and so it’s like from their heart to my heart. I just am so grateful,” Azevedo said.

“When you have that effect on people by giving them something made of fabric, how can you not keep doing it?” said Johnson.

So for giving away quilts and masks through Happiness is a Warm Quilt, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Meredith Johnson.

 

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