Michele Bilyeu is a life-long volunteer who currently lives in Salem, Oregon. Having learned to sew at age 12 on her Alaskan grandmother’s old treadle sewing machine, she quickly developed a love of not only sewing but sewing for others.
In September of 2005, she was one of 200 women gathered at the Salem Convention Center in to create "200 quilts in two days" for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Members of the Salem community donated fabric, thread, batting and quilting items as their part in contributing to the disaster relief movement. The goal was reached. 200 quilts were created in just two days by 200 women. They were hand-delivered by members of the Salem community to Hurricane Katrina survivors by Christmas.
A dozen members of that original group continue to sew every Monday and to make and donate quilts for a variety of charitable causes.
These quilts are sent out on various missions all over the United States, as well as to other charitable groups and causes. They are continually sent to the survivors of the hurricane damaged areas of the U.S. for both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to Habitat for Humanity homes, to members of Inter-Faith Ministries, to the Red Cross, the Union Gospel Mission for the homeless, to neo-natal units and for use by hospice. We have also sent quilts to AIDS babies in Africa, to forest fire victims in California, and to wounded soldiers from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Michele is one of the group members who continues to sew three days a week at home for the charitable causes. She likes to create "sew and go" quilts. When group members travel, they will carry a few of their quilts along and drop off at quilt shops to donate to various causes. Our patriotic "quilts of valor" have been hand-delivered to the "Veterans’ Outreach Center" in Salem, Oregon and to the Madigan Army Medical Center Hospital, located at Fort Lewis, in Tacoma, Washington. There, they are immediately given to wounded soldiers as they arrive at the hospital.
Michele’s current project is combining her love of quilting with her love of sewing. She is involved with sewing and giving away "morsbags"….free, reusable cloth shopping and carrying bags. Her last two quilts were made in honor of one of the quilting group’s members who passed away two weeks ago. She made two brightly colored, scrappy children’s quilts and sent them off in two little "morsbags" for children in the "Family Building Blocks" program in Salem in honor of the quilter who had died. This not only honored that quilter’s love of sewing, children and animals but went to the group in which she had served as a dedicated volunteer…helping children and their families break the cycle of child abuse.
All of these quilts and bags are made simply, using donated, even recycled materials, (the bags below used to be curtains) all are lovingly labeled, and then sent out on their missions of creating heartstrings between our Salem Community Quilters and members of our larger community, everywhere!
Check out Michele’s blog: With Heart and Hands: A Quilted Journey