History’s record crafted into quilt
April 28, 2009
By Erica S. Maniez
In summer 1983, 22 local quilters appliquéd and embroidered quilt blocks meant to represent aspects of the Issaquah community. Once pieced, the quilt would be raffled off during Salmon Days. Proceeds would go to Community Enterprises of Issaquah, to support its work with the developmentally disabled.
Community Enterprises of Issaquah was founded in 1977 as a community rehabilitation program. Its intent was and is to provide opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. A fundraiser is born
Jean Harrington first suggested a quilt raffle as a fundraiser, inspired by a similar project in Port Townsend. Alice Paschal designed quilt blocks for the project. The patterns were distributed, along with fabric squares, to complete and return. When the squares had been returned, volunteers helped with the assembly and finish work of the quilt.
During the weeks leading up to Salmon Days, the quilt was displayed at area businesses, and people had the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets to win the quilt. Monita Horn, who worked quilt blocks for the project from 1981-1987, remembers, “I kept hoping I would win the quilt, even though I have no place to display it. I would buy a whole string of tickets, but it never happened.”
The quilt raffle was an annual event throughout the 1980s, with Paschal creating a few new blocks each year for variety.
On Aug. 24, 1983, a letter to the editor of The Issaquah Press from Community Enterprises secretary Carol Harbolt reminded readers that, “…our very special quilt, designed by Alice Paschal, has been completed and is on display around town until Salmon Days. If you thought the previous quilts were beautiful, wait until you see this one.” Issaquah Press coverage of the 1983 Salmon Days celebration did not reveal the winner of the quilt raffle, and the quilt disappeared from the historical record.
An artifact is lost
More than 20 years later, Robin Abel discovered the quilt in a second-hand store in Renton. It was in excellent condition and she recalls that something about it affected her. Although she didn’t have any ties to Issaquah, she bought it.
Abel was in the midst of great turmoil in her personal life. Her daughter, Maria Federici, had been involved in a serious car accident in February 2004. While driving home from work on Interstate 405, Federici’s car was struck by part of an unsecured load from a vehicle in front of her. She was lucky to have survived, but was left blind and seriously injured.
Abel initially took a leave of absence from work to provide care for her daughter, and eventually had to resign to continue providing care. Federici had no health insurance, and her medical bills quickly topped $1 million.
Because not covering your load was not considered a crime at that time, Federici could not apply for criminal victim compensation (Abel and Federici have since campaigned — and succeeded — in having the law changed). By summer of 2005, Abel had exhausted her savings and was selling her possessions to pay for her and her daughter’s basic living expenses.
While going through her collections, Abel found the 1983 Salmon Days quilt. She called the Issaquah History Museums offices to ask if we would be interested in purchasing the quilt. She said that she didn’t want to sell it to just anyone, and thought that the history museums would appreciate the quilt, and might be able to purchase it or at least find a good home for it.
We sent out an e-mail to our friends and members and told them about the quilt, hoping someone among them might want to purchase it. But our members had a different idea. One donor offered a contribution and a challenge: If nine other people would contribute, then the quilt could be purchased for the history museums. Others quickly met the challenge, and the pledges flooded in, surpassing our goal by several hundred dollars. Within a week, we had raised $845 to purchase the quilt.
It is hard to tell who benefited the most from this transaction. Abel and her daughter received help with their living expenses. The Issaquah History Museums acquired a beautifully crafted piece of local history. And the wonderful donors who stepped in to make sure Abel had help, and the history museums had this quilt, received the deep satisfaction of knowing that they had made an amazing thing possible.
Reach Museum Director Erica Maniez at firstname.lastname@example.org.