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Manteca Quilters create creature comforts for 700 homeless students
One of the many quilts entered in last years Manteca Quilt and Doll Show. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

• WHAT: 34th annual Manteca Quilt & Doll Show
• WHEN: Saturday, March 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. & Sunday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• ADMISSION: $7 per person per day or $10 for both days; free to children age 12 and younger.
• WHERE: MRPS Hall, 133 N. Grant Street just north of Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.
• MORE INFO: (209) 825-4832.

At the beginning of the school year 2012-13, 700 students in the Manteca Unified School District received brand-new lap quilts. Each one was entirely hand-made and custom designed with plenty of TLC put into it. The best part of it all is that this project didn’t cost the district a penny.

The colorful quilts were given by members of the Quilters Guild of Manteca as their way of donating their talents and treasures to students in the school district.

What made their gesture extra special is that the recipients of their gifts were the homeless students attending various schools in the district. The Manteca Quilters adopted this project as one of their community outreach services after they read a story in the Manteca Bulletin about students who don’t have a place to call home.

In addition to the lap quilts, the quilters also gave “pillow cases and things, and toiletries that they might need,” said Quilters Guild vice president Judy Quiner.

“This year, we’ve been productive,” she said of the “philanthropy group” that meets once a month on a Tuesday at the First Baptist Church on East North Street where they get as busy as Santa and his elves making a slew of things that are given away for various needy causes. They have made lap blankets and pillows for people who are being helped by Hospice of San Joaquin such as patients who are receiving chemo treatments. Neonatal babies at San Joaquin General Hospital have been recipients of some of the quilters’ handiwork as well.

“We have a really good-sized group on Tuesday mornings. We have a budget from the club that makes it possible for them to get what they need,” Quiner said, explaining how the volunteer project operates.

Many of their materials are procured from JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts at the Retail Stadium Center in Manteca. The Quilters Guild played a major role in the campaign to bring the store to the city after Walmart closed its fabrics and crafts department.

The Quilters Guild is not the only one that has reached out to the homeless students in the school district after their plight came to the attention of the community. Last year, the Women of Woodbridge at Del Webb in Manteca tripled its annual financial commitment to help homeless students in the district to $3,000.

This school year, Director of Health Services Caroline Thibodeau said the district’s homeless students number about 680.

She said pillow cases are useful for the kids who can use them to “carry their stuff.”

Students are classified as homeless if they have no permanent address. Many of the homeless families live in motels four or five nights a week, then in their vehicles or someone’s available room when the money runs out. Others bounce from one place to another, staying for a few days at a time so as not to create problems between renters and landlords. Some live at camp sites.

Community service organizations such as the Kiwanis Club also contributed every year, in cash and in kind, to the school district program geared toward helping homeless students.

Quiner said the Manteca Quilters will henceforth be making and donating quilted laps and pillows for these students.

“We’re going to keep it up because the (homeless) kids are not going to go away. They may change but they are not (going) go away,” she said.