Quilt #5: Blanchard Valley Center, part 2

MARCH 6, 2017
Read Part 1 here

Who can forget these faces of students at Blanchard Valley Center on block-making day in 2016?

Some learned to use a sewing machine for the first time

others – like Jordan – is already quite familiar with sewing machines,
using them often to make costumes and clothes for himself and others.

Here we see Jordan in one of his latest creations. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Jordan
because he was out the day I was there, but what fun I had hearing about what he comes up with
and how he’s frequently known to dress teachers in clothes that are more to his liking.

Some drew their two red X’s onto the cloth

others painted

Tanya Weising-Pike, Director of Childrens Services, was one of the first people I heard from after launching The 70273 Project. “I want us to be a part of The 70273 Project,” she wrote. “We will have 100% participation. I’m already gathering supplies to make our blocks.”

And oh what a block making day they did have last year, sending a great big box of blocks that I decided needed to stay together in a quilt made just by hand of the staff and students at Blanchard Valley Center.

The Engineer and Cindy Maag get set up in the gym.

I contacted Tanya earlier this year to ask if The Engineer and I could deliver Quilt #5 to them to be on display for the month of March for Disabilities Awareness Month. Tanya gave my favorite answer: Yes, then introduced me to  Cindy Maag, the Community Relations Manager at Blanchard Valley, who turned a simple quilt delivery into a Very Special Event. It was wonderful, amazing, heartwarming. It was epic.

The suspense builds.

Students and teachers came.
Families came.
Randy Roberts, of The Courier came with his big camera to cover the event for the newspaper.

L to R: Tanya Weising-Pike, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, Mayor Lydia Mihalik

Mayor Lydia Mihalik came. (She’s the short one in the beautiful orange jacket.)

Tanya introduced me then called me up to say a few words. Students were running around the gym. Teachers were stepping in front of them to steer them in another direction, but never to make them stop. It was the mild chaos of people being who they are without anybody telling them to be somebody else, and it was wonderful. (Plus I didn’t cough – not even once.)

I told them about The 70273 Project, trying hard not to bust into quiet tears when I looked at the students and imagined how anybody could consider them “useless eaters” or “unworthy of life.” Over and over and over again I said a silent Thank you that we live today where there are places like Blanchard Valley Center and not in 1940 with Aktion T4 constantly lurking and looming.

Quilt #5. Blocks made by students and staff of Blanchard Valley Center. Beautifully, lovingly pieced and quilted  by MJ Kinman.

Finally it was time for what everybody came for: The Big Reveal. I asked (well, actually I told, but since she’s the mayor and since I was raised right, let’s pretend I asked) Lydia and The Engineer to come turn the quilt around. Honestly, I was a little nervous, a little afraid the quilt wouldn’t have the emotional impact the blocks and quilts usually do because this was one quilt in a big gym. I wasted a few minutes of my life that I’ll never get back worrying about that. When the quilt was revealed, there was a moment’s hush as everybody took it all in, the faces registering what was going through their heads, through their hearts. There were tears and smiles in equal measure, and we didn’t rush through this moment, taking time to let it soak in that any one of these students would have received two red X’s at the bottom of their medical records were we to dial back the calendar a few decades.

I fielded some really good questions. Perhaps my Favorite Question of All Time was asked by none other than The Mayor Herself: “What else do you need?” Isn’t that the most fantastic question? After blowing her a kiss, I told them I still need blocks. And people to piece and quilt the blocks. I need people to make quilts from their own blocks or make Middling quilts or Long Skinny quilts. I need people to tell others and encourage them to get involved. I need help getting all the quilts back to HEARTquarters to prepare for The Great Gathering and Launch that’s slowly beginning to take shape in the background. And oh yes, I need financial donations to help cover the growing expenses.

I’m very grateful to Randy Roberts and The Findlay Courier for giving me permission to use this good photo because I was too busy talking to take pictures, something I couldn’t’ve done anyway because I’d already used up every bit of juice in my phone’s battery taking photos all the rest of the day!

Then it was time for people to come up for a closer look at the quilt they made.

Who could forget this photo of her making her block,

and here she is looking for her block in the quilt.

L to R: Cindy Maag, Bobbi Morman, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, Tanya Weising-Pike ,and Ali Weising-Pike (who felt good enough to be there, thank goodness, else I wouldn’t’ve gotten to meet her!)

L to R: The Engineer, Jeanne Hewell-Chambers, Tanya Weising-Pike, and Ali Weising-Pike (They both have blocks in the quilt.)

As the students made their way back to their classes to prepare to go home,
there was nothing left for us to do but take a few more photos,
give and receive a few more hugs,
and turn the truck towards home,
(with another spend-the-night in Kentucky).

The afterglow? Oh it’s still going on, y’all.


Other places to gather around The 70273 Project water cooler:

Shop with Amazon Smile and support The 70273 Project.

Subscribe to the blog (where all information is shared).

Join the English-speaking Facebook group – our e-campfire – where you can talk to other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.

Join the French-speaking Facebook group – our other e-campfire – where you can chat with other members of The 70273 Project Tribe.

Like the Facebook page where you can check in for frequent updates.

Get folks to help celebrate your birthday by making blocks and/or donating bucks.

Follow the pinterest board for visual information.

Post using #the70273project on Instagram. (Please tag me, too, @whollyjeanne, so I don’t miss anything.)

Tell your friends what you want for your birthday.

And if you haven’t yet made some blocks, perhaps you’d like to put some cloth in your hands and join us.

Or maybe you’d like to gather friends and family, colleagues or students, club or guild members, etc. together and make a group quilt.


  1. Wendy Reed

    This is the best post ever! You have inspired me to get my grandson to help with my next blocks. I have a long skinny in process and if all goes well this weekend I will be getting it out to you next week. Bless you!

  2. Chloe

    Such a terrific experience for everyone, Jeanne! Thank you so much for sharing this – those happy faces are such an integral part of what The 70273 Project means to me: bringing people of all abilities together to celebrate difference and equality. And I just love your pose in the lineup too 🙂 Lots of love xo

    • whollyjeanne

      That bringing people of all abilities together is a big part of The 70273 Project for me, too. As for my pose? You don’t miss a thing, do you, Sugar?!

  3. Sharon Smith

    This is SO. BEAUTIFUL! i love EVERYTHING about this! My husband recently started a new job which includes teaching churches how to practice more inclusive worship for people of all abilities. He partners with an organization called Christian Learning Center here in MI. They’ve worked for a long time with schools and have recently begun working with churches. Here is their link with many resources for anyone who is interested. Please note a book by Barbara Newman titled, “Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship” released last year. I went to some of her workshops and what an incredible woman! I will be letting her know of your project! https://clcnetwork.org/for-churches/worshipasone/

    • whollyjeanne

      Sharon, I am so glad to hear about your husband’s new job and this book! After Nancy’s hospital tay last year, I vowed to teach medical professionals how to communicate with the Nancys of the world. (They would just walk into her room, glance in her direction, and never say a word. Never even took their hands out of their pockets. Weren’t in the room 10 seconds.) The Blanchard Valley Center is an amazing place – beautiful and designed to meet people where they are. Thank you for sharing news of The 70273 Project with Barbara Newman . . . and anybody else who would be interested. Thank you, Sugar. xo

      • Sharon Smith

        Oh, I’m sure that is SO needed! I wonder if the Christian Learning Center has resources for that. They are doing work with Joni & Friends and Ken Meidema, the singer. I’ll ask and find out.

        • whollyjeanne

          You’re right: it is sorely needed. Thanks for checking into it.

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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