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News Community Local quilt shop takes on a new cause

Members of local quilting clubs gather in the basement of Deb’s Cats N Quilts to work on various projects.Club members help out with ‘A Case for Smiles.’

Deb Heatherly moved to North Carolina in 2002 and three years later, opened Deb's Cats N’ Quilts on East Main Street in Franklin. After a short stay in that location, she moved her shop to West Palmer Street where it can be found today.

The building that the shop resides in was originally Franklin's first Buick dealership back in the 1940s. When the store began to outgrow its space, Heatherly's landlord came to her with the idea of expanding into the basement which at one time had served as the service bays for the dealership and though it was hard to imagine before January 2011, the basement now serves as a large classroom for the classes she offers as well as a gathering spot for the 130 quilt club members that that can be found there multiple times a month.

Upstairs you will find beautiful quilts and supplies in every room, ranging from designs that are favored among children, to more traditional patterns and yes, there are even some quilts with an obvious feline influence. When looking around the shop, visitors are able to see these things make Heatherly an asset to the Town of Franklin and the surrounding area. Her passions are on display for the world to see and after speaking with the proprietor it becomes apparent that the store serves as a means to give back to the community and beyond.

“We do fundraisers for Catman2, the no kill cat sanctuary in Cullowhee. We've made and donated quilts for raffles, had ‘Meow Time Sales’ where customers bring in cat food to get discount coupons for a special sale in the shop, and our ongoing fundraiser, ‘scrap bags’ and magazines. We put all the scraps of fabric left from the samples we make for the shop into large ziploc bags and sell them as ‘scrap bags for Catman,’” said Heatherly. “We also bring in quilting, sewing, and general interest magazines we are finished with and sell them for $1 for Catman.”

The sale of the magazines and scrap-bags raised more than $600 last year for the Catman2 cause and she hopes to raise even more this year.

The Catman2 fundraisers are only one of the ways that Heatherly is active in giving to the different causes that are close to her heart. This past Saturday, Feb. 2, Deb's Cats N' Quilts hosted its third annual “Souper Bowl” which as the name suggests allows people to come by and drop off cans of soup that will be sent to CareNet. If an individual gives two or more cans to the cause, then they are awarded a discount coupon to be used for any of the items in the store. Even though this year's event was hampered by Franklin's first true snow, the donation looks to weigh-in between 75 and 100 pounds of food. Cash donations were collected as well.

Heatherly recently added one more item to her long list of altruistic endeavors. About a year ago, she became interested in an organization called ConKerr Cancer: A Case for Smiles. The organization based out of Wayne, Pa., began when Cindy Kerr's son was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. Kerr began to make pillowcases for her son and after seeing how happy they made him, she started to make them for other sick children as well. These acts of kindness grew into a nationwide project that now includes school groups, sewing circles, church groups and fabric stores joining in the cause of making hospital stays as pleasant as possible for ill children and their parents.

Multi-colored pillow cases hang in Deb Heatherly’s quilt shop waiting to be given to children who are in hospitals for treatment of various illnesses. The program, A Case For Smiles, began in Wayne, Pa., when Cindy Kerr’s son was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. She began to make pillowcases for her son and then other sick children as well. Heatherly recruited her quilting friends to help with the project.When Heatherly heard this story, she immediately went to work. She set aside some time in September to produce as many pillowcases as she could and with help from 16 of her quilting friends, gathered fun, cheerful prints to be sewn together. At the end of the day, the group of women had produced about 76 pillowcases that were eventually sent to Mission Children's Hospital in Asheville.

“These kids are just touched that someone who doesn't even know them cares,” said Heatherly. “There were people in South Carolina who had heard about the event through our newsletter who wanted to help so they sent pillowcases too.”

Around 44,000 kids in the U.S. are in treatment for an array of different illnesses, not just cancer, and in a hospital it is difficult to look around and see any colors other than whites and grays, so to see purples, reds, blues and greens is a comfort to the children and their families. Not long after the Case for Smiles event, Heatherly began to receive thank you letters from children and families she had never met, all expressing gratitude to her and the friends who joined her in making the pillowcases.

“Just wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful pillowcases you made for my daughter. It was a wonderful surprise when she came up from her biopsy. They made her smile during this most difficult and scary time for us.

Thank you,” read one of the notes she received from a mother named Joanne.

“Thank you for the pillowcase. It's amazing how such a simple gift can mean so much,” read another. The thank-you notes kept coming in, making it clear just how much the gifts are appreciated and how a dark experience can be brightened through acts of kindness. Recognizing that the battle with cancer and other illnesses are ongoing, Heatherly has decided to include A Case for Smiles in her annual calendar of events. She also releases a weekly newsletter. For more information those interested can visit the shop Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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