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Quilters' blankets help patch broken lives

Grace Quilts are beautiful works of art that bring warmth and comfort not only to some of the most vulnerable, but also to the women who create them.

About 10 women meet once a month at Quilters Square, where they make small quilts for children who are in foster care and chronically and severely ill children who are patients at the Thomas H. Pinkstaff Medical Home Clinic at 333 Waller Avenue.

Why?

"These are special kids," said Dr. Grace Maguire, medical director of the clinic. "Every one of them breaks your heart."

The children may have been born with part of a brain, may have been born severely premature or they may have been abused or neglected before being placed in foster care. Children in the latter group may have been whisked away before their belongings or complete medical histories could be gathered.

"We barely know anything besides their names," Maguire said. "So being able to give them a blanket, something for them to keep, is so wonderful. It is their possession."

Maguire became medical director after Dr. Thomas H. Pinkstaff, the founding director of the clinic, died in April 2009. Formerly known as the Medical Home for Coordinated Pediatrics Clinic, it was renamed in November.

The clinic is a joint venture of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics and the Department for Community Based Services. It provides one-stop primary care.

The staff sometimes spend days tracking down medical records for the 180 patients the clinic treats, scheduling appointments with specialists or coordinating services with other medical professionals.

Before the clinic opened, three agencies — the Family Care Center, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department and the UK Department of Pediatrics — served foster children on alternate months, Maguire said.

The clinic, "has made the lives of foster families a lot easier," Maguire said. "We also have the time to see what the special needs children really need and follow up on their appointments."

As Maguire told me the mission of the clinic, some of the quilters were transfixed. Many had not heard the stories of the children their blankets were comforting.

Linda Meredith knew, though. A pediatric nurse for 35 years, she began making baby quilts two years ago when her niece, a pediatric nurse, mentioned the need. She has made 75 to 100.

Judy Cuppy, another of the quilters, is the barber for Maguire's husband, Dr. Lawrence Maguire. He mentioned to Cuppy the work his wife is doing and how she wanted to put together backpacks for children, stuffed with necessities.

Cuppy thought a quilt would be a good addition for the backpacks. She gave him four or five at his next haircut. And she roped in her best friend, Mary White, to make some, too.

"The fact that these are going to children and that I might give them a small taste of comfort" is the reason Meredith creates the Grace Quilts, named for Maguire and the compassionate act.

"I love quilting and I don't want to stop," Meredith said.

"It feels good to give something back," Cuppy said. "It's a comfort to somebody and it makes you feel good."

The group now includes 10 quilters who meet from 6-9 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at Quilters Square, 140 Moore Drive.

Suzanne Fain, a retired history teacher who quilts with the group, said she has worked with foster children and has seen "how shaken up they can be." Knowing her own children loved to curl up with their quilts, Fain wanted to help out, too.

"It is something they can rub up against," she said.

The quilters could use any fabric or batting you have. Just call Chana Rincon, the manager of Quilters Square, at 278-5010, or drop it off. And, if you would like to join them, all are welcome, and the need is great.

If you'd rather knit or crochet blankets like members of the Sunshine Sunday School Class at Broadway Baptist Church, the clinic will accept those as well.

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