A local group of quilters, known as The Porterville Quilters, has taken up the tradition of giving back to the young women in the Valley by wrapping dolls in handmade quilts in a project they refer to as The Cradle Quilt Project. 

This year, the Quilters made a total of 201 dolls to disburse to the young women of the Central Valley. Noeleen Paskwietz, the chair for the Cradle Quilt Project committee, answered a few questions about the project and its history.

“Our Cradle Quilt project was started over 20 years ago by Colleen Conroy,” said Paskwietz. “(Conroy’s) husband Don was a member of the San Joaquin Fine Woodworkers, where they made over 2,000 wooden toys for underprivileged children throughout the Valley for Christmas. Of the 2,000 toys, there was not a lot of toys for girls, so the wood workers started making cradles and Colleen decided to fill the cradles with a doll and quilt. Before Colleen passed away, she asked if I would continue the Cradle Quilt project which I gladly accepted. I have been the Cradle Quilt Project chair for the past 11 years.

“We usually make about 130 to 150 quilts every year, but this year we made 201 quilts. The dolls and quilts will be distributed up and down the Valley to children in need. Most of our dolls and quilts will stay in the southern end of the Valley.”

The quilts for the dolls are created year round and then disbursed during the holiday season. The Porterville Quilters are active in the community, and are proud to keep this annual tradition going.

“Once a month, throughout the year, several members of the Porterville Quilters meet at our local quilt shop, Calico Mermaid, and make the quilts for the dolls. Some members also make quilts at home,” said Paskwietz. “All year long we are on the look out for dolls that we can buy at a reasonable price as we solely rely on donations, fundraising and a small budget from the Porterville Quilt Club. In November we get together at Calico Mermaid and wrap the dolls in the quilts and get them ready to send to the woodworkers. Then the woodworkers will distribute the dolls and quilts before Christmas.”

For more than 20 years, this crafty group of women has brought joy to young ladies in need during Christmas time, and it doesn’t sound like the tradition will be coming to a halt anytime soon. But this isn’t the only way the Quilters give back to the community.

“We have about 40 quilt club members that help throughout the year in making the doll quilts,” said Paskwietz. “We also have members that donate fabric and dolls to us to make our project successful. Many of our members help us fundraise for this project as well. We love for anyone in the community that is interested in helping to join the Porterville Quilters on the third Thursday of the month at the First Congregational Church on Mill Avenue and Fourth Street at 10 a.m. We would gladly accept any financial donation that would go towards the purchase of the dolls and fabric for the quilts. The Porterville Quilt Club also has many other projects we do to donate to the local community. Some of these projects include Local Heroes where we donate a quilt to local veterans, and Little Quilts where we donate lap size quilts to the women’s shelter and Love Inc.”

This decade’s old tradition is the highlight of the holiday season for some of the group’s members, and is important because it spreads cheer to young women who may not receive much else during the holidays.

“This is a club effort and we would not be successful without all the members,” said Paskwietz.

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