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Wyatt Art Center quilting group crafting quilts for the homeless

Chattanooga Community Kitchen staff estimate that 300 people in the downtown area need a home. In an effort to help keep them warm this winter, North Chattanooga’s Wyatt Art Center quilting group is sewing together bundles of warmth and love for a local homeless family.

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Chattanooga Parks and Recreation’s Wyatt Art Center Director Joyce Teal, of Hixson, left, and fellow quilting expert Bonnie Akhtab, of East Brainerd, work together in weekly quilting classes to create handmade quilts. This cowboy quilt is a variation of a nine-patch and will soon be presented to a young homeless boy at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

The four quilts will go to a mother, her two boys and little girl and will be presented in February at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. So far, the children’s quilts are looking good, with a pink princess theme for the girl and cowboy and brick themes for the boys.

“We take a lot of donated material to make quilts to give to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen,” said Hixson resident Joyce Teal, director of the Wyatt Art Center, part of the public Chattanooga Parks and Recreation network. “We also make tote bags so the homeless can carry their quilts.”

The average age of homelessness in the United States is 8 years old, she said.

“The state will take your children if you are homeless, so you have to be even more invisible,” said Teal. “A quilt is personal. By putting their name on a quilt ... it is a form of identification, because without an address they can’t have a driver’s license.”

The princess-themed quilt her group is making is even more personal, with “Trust God with your heart” emblazoned in one corner and “I have a plan for you. Love God,” in another.

“When you work on something for someone, it gives you a real sense of purpose,” Teal said. “It adds value to your life to help the homeless and it makes you appreciate what you do have. It starts with fabric strip by strip and becomes a quilt.”

The people who accept the quilts are appreciative, she said. The group is also making a rustic-looking quilt for a homeless man named Zachary to present to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

“We do live on donated fabric,” said Teal. “I like to use 100 percent cotton material for quilts. It’s nice, soft, warm and comfortable. They are not show quilts or museum quilts; they are people-quality quilts. The quilts are made for the people to be used and loved by the person that receives them. Quilts take 10 to 30 hours to make.”

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