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Common Threads - Quilts of Hope for 9-1-1 Centers

Author: Randall D. Larson, Editor

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2014-03-24
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After twelve years as a 9-1-1 dispatcher in Arizona,  Jean Kester retired, moved to Washington state, and eventually founded an organization called Layers of Hope - Quilting 911, a support organization for 9-1-1 agencies and their communities who have undergone disasters or stressful, traumatic incidents. 

“I got the idea in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast,” Jean told 9-1-1 Magazine.  “I wanted to go down and help but it just wasn’t possible.  My husband suggested I use my quilting talents to send quilts, and I did.”

With the assistance of dispatch trainer Kevin Willet who founded the 911 Cares organization after 9/11, Jean was put in contact with those in need and she has been quilting for those who remain in this field since then.  “I still can’t accomplish this all on my own, of course,” Jean said.  “Kevin continues to be my main source when finding a need whether it be sickness of the dispatcher or family members, fire, tragedy, crisis or disasters, I have reached out and had many people I will never meet reach out to help.”

When the theater shooting in Aurora happened in 2013, Jean set up a Facebook page and asked for help from other quilters.  “We were able to send enough quilts to not only each person in their telecommunications department, but for the survivors – so many that Aurora had to find another department to accept our quilts!”

When tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Jean again quilted for the 9-1-1 centers involved.  “This time, Aurora paid it forward with crocheting and knitting blankets to send.  Most recently we sent quilts to every parent, sibling, child and grandparent of the 19 hot shot firefighters from who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona.”

By this time, Jean knew she needed a name for what she was doing, and so "Layers of Hope – Quilting 911" was designated in 2013, its slogan “Love for our unseen Heroes” added to denote its support of the unseen first-responders behind the telephones and radios. “Since then, we have had our name trademarked in the state of Washington and we are a registered charity within the state.  We are not a 501.3(c) charity as we make less than $5000 per year and most quilts are sent directly from the quilter to the dispatch center in need.”

Jean’s immediate goal is to add a regular blog to the Layers of Hope web site and get the word out about what her organization can do to aid those working behind the microphone.

“You may not think a quilt would do much, but I can tell you from the letters we get and the pictures I receive, when you have lost all to a fire, a hurricane, a tornado, when your child is ill or you have been in an accident or had a stroke – it makes all the difference in the world to our men and women who are dedicated to the work they do. To know someone they have never met cares about them enough to send them a quilt touches hearts.”

For more information and news about Layers of Hope, see:

Follow Layers of Hope on Facebook

A gallery of images of the quilts Layers of Hope has provided to families, individuals, and 9-1-1 centers in need has been created on the Pinterest web site:




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