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Lehi woman organizes quilt donations to connect and comfort Ukraine refugees

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“Being involved in the quilt industry for the past 20-plus years, there is one thing we know for sure, quilters are givers,” said Gina Halladay. She and her friend and business partner Beth Hawkins have used their quilting and business talents to start a quilt drive for refugees in Ukraine, Wrap Ukraine with Quilts.

Gina’s husband Hal Halladay has friends and business colleagues living in Ukraine and Poland. “We were getting almost daily emails telling us about what was happening with the Russian invasion. We were told that most people were leaving Ukraine with only a backpack or small suitcase. Manyare leaving behind husbands, boyfriends or older sons to fight. The refugees are scared and uncertain about their future,” said Gina.

Halladay and Hawkins were days away from launching their next quilt adventure, a combination of online quilting classes and a fabric shop called Hello Cottons when the invasion started. The two friends brainstormed how they could help and came up with handmade quilts for as many refugees as they could reach. “I asked a friend in Ukraine if she thought refugees would appreciate a quilt and she started crying,” said Gina. “Besides needing food and supplies, these people want to know that somebody sees them.”

Within a week of hatching their idea, Gina and Beth had a website and several donated quilts. Quilt donors can register their quilt on the website, and it is assigned a tracking QR code. “If the person receiving the quilt would like to send a message or connect with the quilt donor, they can scan the QR code and send a note back. We think that is a pretty cool way for people to connect,” Gina explained.

Beth Hawkins and Gina Halladay have never lived in the same state, but their paths ran parallel to each other for years before they finally met. “We were both raising four kids and finding ways to be not just busy moms of growing kids, but growing our talents too,” said Gina. “We had adventures in the fields of woodworking, tole painting, knitting, sewing, dollmaking, home décor, gardening and DIY home remodeling.”

The crafty friends also had businesses selling handmade goods, designing and teaching classes. Gina interviewed Beth about her company LizzieBCre8ive for a quilting blog Gina wrote, QuiltersBuzz. In 2007 they both attended the quilt industry trade show, Quilt Market, in Salt Lake City, where they were first-time quilt pattern designers with booths. “When we saw each other for the first time we really hugged it out,” recalled Gina.

Since 2007, Gina and Beth have worked and played togethermany times. They spent 14 days of the COVID-19 lockdown in Hawaii with their featherweight sewing machines. “We made 17 quilt tops during those two weeks! We get a lot done, but we laugh a lot and drink a lot of Diet Coke,” said Gina.

Wrap Ukraine with Quilts is not just for quilters, they’re also accepting donations for travel and shipping expenses. The first shipment of quilts goes out this week with a team that includes Hal Halladay. They’ll hand-deliver the quilts and troubleshoot logistics and details of future shipments to refugee camps and centers. Hello Cottons has partnered with Lifting Hands InternationalChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Philanthropies and Quilts Without Borders. If Gina and Beth receive more quilts than they can handle, they will give the quilts to those charities to help distribute.

Gina reached out to friends at Missouri Star Quilts for advice. They did a similar quilt drive after Hurricane Katrina thinking they’d get 500 or so quilts. They got 10,000. “We know we’re going to get hundreds, but we’ll probably get thousands,” said Gina. “We might need to get some office space or have some of these businesses store the quilts until we can distribute them.”

Every day since Wrap Ukraine with Quilts started, Gina has been getting boxes of quilts delivered to her home and quilts left in a box on her porch in Lehi.

“We’re going to be collecting quilts through at least the end of the year,” said Gina. They’re asking for handmade quilts or gently used and washed ones. All the information and instructions are on the website and Gina and Beth will have a booth at Quilt Festival in Salt Lake City on July 21 – 23, 2022. Every quilt will be donated, and funds raised will go toward shipping and supplies.

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