The Tokay Stitch N’ Quilt Guild is gathering a tight-knit community of quilters to donate quilted blocks to Debbie’s Quilt Shop in Paradise.

The project is among several that are taking share as the people of Paradise search for normalcy.

Debbie Alberg-Andres is a Lodi native who lives in Paradise and owns Debbie’s Quilt Shop. Her shop survived the flames, but was hit by a tree branch that pierced the roof and caused severe water damage throughout the shop.

She has recovered five sewing machines that are in working condition, and is looking to relocate her shop as the city rebuilds and people start to move forward.

“Quilting is very therapeutic. It allows people to sit together and talk while they put pieces together,” Alberg-Andres said.

Alberg-Andres has been focusing on opening her shop and giving the quilting community in Paradise a place to go.

She is hoping to build connections with quilters nationwide with the project, and has adopted a block theme to inspire volunteers.

“I came up with the idea of creating a house design that quilters could piece together in 10 1/2-inch blocks with inspiring messages, that could be given to the quilting community in Paradise,” she said.

The information reached a local quilting group — the Tokay Stitch N’ Quilt Guild, which is a group of a hundred women who meet at Emanuel Lutheran Church and quilt.

The group is keen on helping both local and neighboring communities. They create quilts that they donate to San Joaquin Hospice, and Court Appointed Special Advocates of San Joaquin County, known as CASA.

The group donated 20 quilts to the victims of the Ventura County fires and is hoping to get 40 quilts together to donate to the victims of the Camp Fire.

“We published a request to quilting guilds statewide, who are interested in donating blocks to Debbie’s Quilt Shop,” said Connie Oliver, the guild’s publicity director.

Quilting is about camaraderie and support, Oliver said.

The group has actively been creating quilts and block pieces, she said. Their desire to help comes from their empathy for the people of Paradise.

“For people that are 65 and older, they are having to completely start over,” Oliver said.

The daunting reality of starting all over again can be quite overwhelming, which is why the quilting community is working to help Alberg-Andres get blocks.

The task of donating blocks is symbolic, Oliver added, because as people piece together their quilts they also have to piece together their lives. The fabric fragments are meant to brandish the image of a home to symbolize the quilters in Paradise rebuilding.

The Tokay Stitch N’ Quilt Guild is currently accepting blocks and will have information available on their website, www.lodiquilters.com. Visitors can find out more about the project and meet-ups that the group is hosting.

Anyone interested in donating fabric or blocks to Debbie’s Quilt Shop can reach Alberg-Andres directly on her on Facebook page, www.facebook.com/debbiesquiltshop.

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