The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 19, 2012

Compassionate cover-up: Ohio volunteers deliver quilts to tornado survivors, families

By Rich Brown
Globe Columnist


English novelist Charles Reade once said “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

Janice Grimes and her Quilts of Compassion ministry have delivered more than 1,300 masterpieces to Joplin since last year’s catastrophic tornado. And they’re not done yet.

The masterpieces are in the form of hand-made quilts that the Toledo, Ohio-based group has made, collected and delivered to Freeman Health System on four different occasions since the tornado. Love comes from the hearts of those sewing the quilts and, in turn, the love of God is demonstrated to tornado survivors, their families and friends.

The first delivery of 200 quilts was made 10 days after the May 22 tornado touched down. The fourth and most recent delivery last week included 437 quilts. The fifth delivery will be made near the time of the one-year anniversary of the storm.

Freeman chaplain Christine Iannucilli labeled the Quilts of Compassion donations as nothing short of an incredible blessing. Not only have the comforters (what an appropriate label) been distributed to tornado victims and their loved ones throughout the community, but also at the hospital itself.

“We have people who work here at Freeman who have lost loved ones and they have received quilts, too,” Iannucilli said.

The chaplain said one hospital worker, who lost a child in the storm, gets great solace by wrapping up in a quilt with her dog almost every night after going home from work.

Grimes, founder and executive director of the ministry, said she believes God’s hand is on every quilt that is made and that prayers are offered for each one.

“I believe in the power of prayer and that people feel the presence of God when they are under these quilts,” said Grimes, who started Quilts of Compassion on her own in 1999 out of Grand Rapids, Mich. “I believe that anytime you show purity of heart in any way, whether through love, kindness or compassion, that people will see God in that and feel His presence.”

Just as the quilts have been a blessing to so many people in the Joplin area, they have also blessed the roughly 250 volunteers who are responsible for putting them together at the ministry headquarters in Toledo, and at other Quilt of Compassion sites in Grand Rapids and Cleveland, Ohio.

Volunteer Lisa Sheets, who accompanied Grimes on last week’s delivery, said she is constantly blessed through the quilt ministry.

“Just seeing how much comfort they bring to people and how grateful they are is wonderful,” she said. “Another thing is I have found the spirit of this community to be amazing. I always take that home with me and it has become a part of me now.”

Grimes said members of her non-profit organization had prayed about how to reach out to people beyond their own area of Toledo when word came of the tornado. As a result, Joplin became the group’s first trip for disaster relief.

In the week following the tornado, Grimes put her volunteers to work on 200 quilts, which they finished in three straight days. The next day was spent driving to Freeman to make the delivery.

“We thought we would just come down for one visit, but as we were driving home, I felt like God wanted us to continue coming back until a full year’s commitment had been made,” said Grimes, who turned to the ministry after receiving a quilt herself in the hospital following a life-threatening car accident.

The peace and comfort Ñ as well as God’s presence Ñ that Grimes said she felt from her comforter during her hospital stay led to her decision to form Quilts of Compassion, with the theme of bringing hope and encouragement to the hurting.

Now, in its 13th year, the ministry has distributed around 43,000 quilts and afghans to hospitals, nursing homes, retirement communities, homeless shelters, half-way houses, homes for abused and neglected women and children, overseas missionary fields and hospice, rehabilitation centers and at-risk youth facilities.

In addition, Grimes is exploring the idea of starting a Quilts of Compassion branch in Joplin and plans to hold a meeting for all those interested upon her return in May, when, she said, at least 500 more quilts will be delivered.

Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email

What a cover-up

ANYONE WANTING MORE INFORMATION or seeking to join the ministry may contact Grimes at 419-708-9343, through email at or on Facebook. Others having quilt tops to donate may mail them to Quilts of Compassion, 2620 Centennial, Suite E, Toledo, OH 43617, where volunteers will sew on the backs and get them ready for delivery.