After losing her only daughter five years ago to a rare disease known as idiopathic gastroparesis, Andrea McAdams of Dayton was naturally devastated.
“I lost my daughter five years ago when she was 26 years old,” McAdams said. “About 18 months prior to her diagnosis, she started having digestive issues. She couldn’t eat anything and if she did, she would throw everything up.”
At the time McAdams’ daughter, Telitha, was starting a new job in Toledo and was told she needed to return home when doctors there couldn’t determine what was causing her problems. Doctors eventually determined that Telitha’s stomach was functioning at about a 2 percent level. This condition, also called “delayed gastric emptying,” is characterized by partial paralysis of the stomach, resulting in food remaining in food remaining in the stomach and then moving slowly through the digestive tract or stopping all together.
Unable to eat or get nutrition from her food, Telitha wasted away, even as doctors fed her intravenously. “She basically starved to death,” her mother said.
While mourning the loss of her daughter and feeling, she said “like a piece of the puzzle was missing,” McAdams eventually decided she needed to do something to help others, because she felt this was the best way to honor Telitha’s memory.
“We did a lot of charitable activities together,” McAdams said. “I loved helping Habitat for Humanity especially and Telitha always talked about becoming a missionary.”
McAdams did some tutoring for a few years but said she felt it wasn’t quite enough to help her move on after losing her beloved daughter. Then two years ago she saw an online posting asking people to make quilts for the homeless.
“I said I could do that,” McAdams said. “I mentioned it to my mom and our original thought was to make five quilts.”
The five quilts became 10 and McAdams enlisted people from her workplace, Reynolds and Reynolds in Kettering to help and they began giving the quilts to an organization known as Jeremiah’s Letter, a faith based nonprofit in Dayton with a mission to help those less fortunate. “The week of Thanksgiving 2012 marked our first donation,” McAdams said.
Together with six of her coworkers from Reynolds and Reynolds, McAdams continued to work on quilts all the while thinking she would stop after completing ten.
“People kept saying I needed to turn it into a nonprofit organization,” McAdams said. “Donations starting coming in and the floodgates opened in a good way.” The new nonprofit, named for McAdams’ daughter, Telitha’s Hope, is now awaiting final approval from the IRS, which should come within the next 30 days.
Meanwhile, McAdams continued to look for quilt patterns she liked and eventually found one that included heart shapes featuring children’s hand prints. “I really wanted to get kids involved in these projects,” McAdams said. So the small group created quilt kits, which included pre-cut fabric pieces, designed to be sent to schools and other child based organizations around the nation.
Facebook helped them get the word out about the quilt kits and one of the group members posted information on her page. Before they knew it, requests for kits came pouring in.
“This past school year, Dennis Elementary School in Springboro wanted to make our quilts the center of their Random Acts of Kindness week,” McAdams said. “All 1,100 students participated and we incorporated their work into 48 quilts.”
McAdams said schools and teachers often use the projects as a learning exercise. “I think it’s so wonderful that kids are learning about what it means to be homeless and how they can help,” she said.
One Girl Scout troop even had their members go outdoors and lie down on quilts while the troop leader asked them to imagine sleeping outside with only a quilt in all kinds of weather. The children also now write messages on some of the quilt squares. “We see notes that read things like ‘I hope you find a home soon,’” McAdams said. “It’s very touching.”
The group now designs the quilts so that they can serve as sleeping bags, with the bottom and side tied together with neckties. “We also put basic toiletries in like toothpaste and shampoo inside. In the winter we also include gloves, hats, socks and scarves.”
Using mostly donated materials, (they only pay for paint and fabric markers for the kits), “Telitha’s Hope,” recently donated their 100th quilt to an organization they work with regularly now, The Miami Valley Housing Opportunities (MVHO), which seeks out homeless people on the street and tries to get them the help they need.
They get together about once a week and many volunteers take projects home. “We can always use more volunteers who can sew,” McAdams said. “And we always need donations of fabric, old clothing and neckties.”
McAdams continues to be motivated by her daughter’s memory and the knowledge that the quilts are making a difference for many people in need. “It’s been inspiring to see how many people and organizations want to get involved with this,” McAdams said.
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