Pictured on the left is Debby Dailey with fellow Red Cross volunteer Marion Chappell
By Lucca Lorenzi, Public Affairs Volunteer
Debby Dailey’s helping hand has sewn an incredible quilted patchwork of volunteer service, and she has left an inspiring impact on the hearts of veterans and those impacted by disasters in her community.
Dailey, a Red Cross volunteer for over 40 years, originally earned her degree in ceramics and began her career as a firefighter. Soon after, she was offered the opportunity to earn a nursing degree. Taking advantage of this, she used her newfound degree as a chance to volunteer her experience for the Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team. Dailey also serves as a professor at Fresno City’s nursing program and sews in her spare time.
Dailey said, “I love volunteering with the Red Cross because it’s allowed me to take all of my different passions, such as quilting, firefighting and nursing, and then focus those into ways that can help others.”
Ever since Dailey became a volunteer, she has been responding to those impacted by disasters in a unique way that only she could. Dailey has used her talents in sewing to craft over 200 quilts for disaster victims.
“When you give kids these blankets, it instantly soothes them,” Dailey said. “When we have fires out here, they often happen late into the night or early morning and a lot of times all these kids have are their pajamas. To be able to take a quilt and wrap it around them… it really is a special moment.”
Dailey will often shop for fabric stores in the towns where the disaster has occurred or use donated fabrics to incorporate into he quilts as a way to add an extra layer of significance for the victims. Her final touch includes a small patch at one of the quilt’s corners with the Red Cross emblem and a handwritten note of who it was made by.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dailey expanded her team of volunteer seamstresses, which now includes Frances Rice-Ferrand, Benita Sito, Barbara Montejo, Dawn Gugliemino and Leanne Caldwell, and partnered with the Service to the Armed Forces to sew masks, quilts, bibs, red hats, and landing pads (for service dogs) for the Fresno Veterans Affairs (VA) general distribution.
Their donations included over 300 handsewn masks for VA volunteers, staff and homeless veterans, 40 handmade baby quilts for the VA Center for Development & Civic Engagement to give to veteran moms to be, and 40 comfort kits that included hand sewn masks donated to veteran moms. Additional quilts were donated to home fire victims throughout the Central Valley as well.
“Each of us contributes to a different part of the quilt. I work on the top, my sister does the binding, and then someone does the stitches, another works on the interior designs and then the last person finishes it up,” said Dailey. “It’s kind of a unique system.”
In October, Dailey and her team donated 20 quilts to the 7th annual Central Valley Women Veteran Stand Up event.
Sarah Brown-Monroe, a SAF volunteer, helps organize the Stand Up events and coordinates with Dailey on what supplies she and her Quilt Doc team need, such as masks, baby bibs and quilts.
“The women were just thrilled receiving those quilts,” said Brown-Monroe.
The Stand-Up events are a moment for female veterans to be honored and respected. The inclusive event gifted veterans comfort kits (toiletry packs), spa and clothing services, and masks and quilts sewn by Dailey and her team.
“I go out today, and the kids now that are adults will bring out the quilts that they’ve had all this time and tell me it was the one thing that brought them comfort. It was the one thing that was theirs, and it would remind them of the positives in their life,” said Dailey.