Two Sonoma Valley women who met over social media in the aftermath of last month’s wildfires are now at work ensuring those in the region who lost the most receive some comfort in the difficult times that lie ahead.
Laura Lee Fritz of Sonoma and Mary Chelton, who lives in the Cavedale-Trinity Road area, found each other through the Facebook group dedicated to local fire updates. They banded together to offer what they could to affected friends and neighbors — quilts.
“Sometimes it’s just about having something soft, wonderful and warm,” said Fritz. “Because this was not from Macy’s. This was made on purpose for someone to share this — to warm a heart, as well as the body.”
Like so many in Sonoma Valley, the fires affected them, too. On their property, Chelton and husband, Jake Blehm, lost all but their house, which is currently uninhabitable, while Fritz and her husband, Ron, saw flames nearly reach their East Sonoma quilt design workshop. Both also know any number of people displaced by the disaster.
Partnering with longtime Santa Rosa resident Meredith Johnson, the three formed the Napa and Sonoma fire victim quilt drive through a website and Facebook group. Naturally, they wanted a name for the cause connected to the area and, with approval from the Charles M. Schulz Museum, landed on “Happiness Is a Warm Quilt” after one of the famous “Peanuts” comic strip creator’s books of a similar title.
With the assistance of quilters throughout the Bay Area, and other donations from around the nation still trickling in, the trio has appeared at three post-fire community events to give the thick bundles of warmth to anyone whose home was destroyed.
Not including quilts for pets, they’ve handed out about 40 quilts, most recently a dozen at a potluck celebration for first responders in Kenwood this past Sunday.
Nick Brown, a Glen Ellen resident of more than two decades who lost everything in his rental home, brought one back to his temporary living situation for him and his cats the Sunday before that.
“I have to admit I’m still kind of in shock, but it was definitely a ray of hope … to take such a beautiful object into my hands and take home,” he said. “It’s just a comfort to open the door and see something nice and that’s filled with obvious love and care, and to know that that’s there if nothing else.”
Quilting guilds out of Sonoma County, Petaluma and Santa Rosa are involved in similar assistance campaigns as well, though the Happiness crew is targeting those displaced by the Nuns fire, which destroyed more than 500 homes in and around Sonoma Valley.
They have more giveaway events tentatively scheduled around the area during the week of Thanksgiving, and those interested in either donating or receiving a quilt can check out the group’s Facebook page.
The wish list they’re keeping is growing by the day, but the goal is to fulfill every request, no matter how long it takes them.
“We want to wrap a nice, warm quilt around everyone who’s lost everything,” Chelton said, “and make sure that they have something to give them a nice hug when their best friend isn’t around. Please know that your quilt — your special hug — is on its way.”
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