Local quilter helps hurting children

A Port Orchard woman with a love of quilting is applying to establish what would be the first chapter of Quilts for Kids in the state of Washington.

Heather Nolm teaches classes at Handmade with Love, an arts and crafts shop on Bay Street in downtown Port Orchard. Nolm said that “I’ve always been a creative type, and my husband’s stepmom started quilting probably about 25 years ago, and I had tried to teach myself how to do it, but I got frustrated because this was before YouTube was as ubiquitous as it is.”

After encouragement and a set of classes, Nolm has been an active quilter for years and hosts a quilting event at the shop on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Finished quilts are shipped to Quilt for Kids headquarters in Pennsylvania, where they are distributed around the country to kids facing serious illness, trauma or abuse, and kids in areas of natural disaster.

Nolm said that she’s seen the effect that the quilts can have firsthand. “My youngest niece has dravet syndrome, which is a severe form of epilepsy, so she spent the first ten, eleven years of her life in and out of hospitals,” Nolm said. “They would send her home typically with a pillowcase or something like that. They would have quilts to help comfort the kids that were there.”

She said that family experience and her skills motivated her to serve her community in this way. She said that “for me, being able to create something that will bring a child comfort or just, even for dialysis centers, to keep people warm while they’re going through something so traumatic, it’s my way of giving comfort to other people. It’s the best way I know how.”

It has motivated her so much she is applying for a chapter to be located in the Port Orchard area. She said that the significance of stationing a chapter there would be more local donations within the state. Currently, the closest chapter is Portland, OR.

“Until we have a local chapter set up, they do get sent to headquarters and then distributed throughout the country from there,” she said, “but once our chapter is set up, they’ll stay local.”

Nolm is encouraging anyone with or without quilting experience to donate their time or supplies to the cause. She said that the sense of community is great and that even if you are not familiar with quilting, she and others can teach you.

“I know some people just iron quilts and iron fabrics when they come in other chapters. Ultimately, really, if you have good dexterity, you can learn to cut the fabric really easily. If you’re willing to learn, I’m willing to teach,” Nolm said.