Quilts with Pockets of Hope

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” 

                                                                                                            -William Wiberforce

Every year, April 12 is a day of remembrance. This date is set aside as the International Day for Street Children.  For the two million youngsters who live in the shadows, every day brings a reminder of their plight. Street kids typically spend at least one day a month with no food whatsoever. Tragically, each year 300,000 boys and girls are forced into prostitution by human traffickers. Many of the homeless teens living in shelters hope to avoid family violence. Dropping out of school is necessary to escape the wary eyes of “the system.” Older street kids are youth who have “aged out” of the foster care system. These homeless children have learned to be invisible in order to survive. Maybe that is why so many adults are not aware that they exist.

A number of years ago, sociology professor Barbara Reskin’s consciousness about street children was raised. “I read a book about a child who was in foster care and had to go from place to place carrying his stuff in paper bags, so I started thinking about homeless kids. Where were they going to put their stuff?” She drew on that old adage, “When life gives you scraps, make quilts.”

Having grown up poor and been intimately acquainted with poverty, Reskin invested her research efforts as a sociologist in social inequality issues. She realized the dire needs of the homeless. But she formulated a plan.

Needle and thread skills are second nature to Reskin. The quilting philosophy that she has used all of her life is reminiscent of that used by people in the Great Depression. Reskin salvages her own old clothes, buys some at a thrift shop and uses the fabric gleaned from between the seams. To get the most cloth from a shirt, she cuts off the collars, cuffs and pockets. Living with a sense of frugality, she kept the pockets, accumulating an impressive stash over the years.

Recruiting her quilting buddy, Lynn White, the two women revved up their sewing machines and started stitching quilts from the pockets.  For their first project, the duo created 13 quilts with 20 pockets on each. The finished comforters with storage space were donated to the Wellspring Family Services which serves children rescued from the streets.

Barbara Reskin and Lynn White with “pocket quilts” for homeless children

But the women reached out to friends in the university community for a bit of help. Sociology students, faculty, and staff filled the pockets with soap, toothpaste, notebooks, calculators and some fun items like crayons, yoyos and games.  “We loved doing this,” Reskin sighed. “It was fun and felt good to be doing something. Because of my research, I’m very aware that the needs out there are great.” She is working with facilities that target street kids and help them to find a place to live.

Right now, the women are accepting donations of pockets from old shirts and blouses that are either still attached to the shirt, or cut out with at least two inches of fabric on each side.  As the pockets are collected, more quilts will be stitched with love. A double hug for a street kid: one of warmth and another for the immediate needs of the day. The tie that binds.

April 12 is the International Day for Street Children. In God’s economy, there are no scraps. Only pieces that need to be bound together into a beautiful mosaic of reclamation.

Anyone who has some pockets to donate or would like to get involved in the pocket quilt project should contact Reskin at reskin@u.washington.edu


“To me, a faith in Jesus Christ that is not aligned with the poor…it’s nothing.”

                                      -Bono, singer, songwriter and philanthropist

Photo credit for main photo: https://unsplash.com/photos/7f_gsUxmiOQ


  1. Wow… what a pertinent subject and act…
    This is fantastic… and not that difficult.

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