You've heard the news. You've seen the stats. The 2008 holiday retail season will go down as one of the worst in three decades. With a 2.8% decline in sales, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retailers across the country suffered through the loss of an astronomical $13 billion.
Texans say everything is bigger and better in their state, and Houston Jewelry is no exception. Considered a state landmark of business, the store is owned and operated by the fifth generation of the Donsky-Solomon family, making their more than 160 years in business momentous and award winning.
Six years ago Rebecca Shemwell had an epiphany. While traveling abroad on business for Tracy Pearls, Inc., images of children in need deeply touched her. From orphans to below-poverty level kids, the realization that these children were alone in world stirred something in her. In 2003 she started Quilted With Love (QWL), a philanthropic organization whose sole purpose is to deliver hand-made crib-sized quilts to children in need around the world.
Wanting to provide the children with a sense of security and show them that someone cared, Rebecca pulled from her own experience as a mother of two. Her children, now 24 and 17, had security blankets as toddlers. So she contacted local quilting guilds and found enough volunteers to produce the first installment of quilts. The next time she headed to China she carried 50 baby quilts with her.
And each time Rebecca travels she carries, on average, 50 quilts. Children across the globe have benefited from receiving these warm gifts of love. From Hong Kong to Guatemala, Bethlehem to Guangxi Province, Rebecca or one of the QWL volunteers makes sure to take quilts with them. In 2007, Tim Roark Imports delivered quilts to a Nairobi children's home. Even Rebecca's competitors have become involved. Richard's Pearls, based in Tennessee, also participated by taking quilts to India.
American children aren't immune to needy circumstances either. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast, QWL was there sending handmade quilts to displaced children. QWL recognized that the needs of children know no physical boundaries, cultural barriers or societal status.
"It's funny," states Rebecca, "but I've discovered a big cultural gap in the concept of a security blanket. Other countries don't have anything like it. Only in the U.S. do we understand how significant a blanket can be to a small child. I explain the idea to the social workers I meet at each facility, but it usually takes a few minutes before they fully understand that the quilts are not just for warmth. And they are confused by the idea that we want nothing in return. It has taken a lot to convince them that this is truly a gift - nothing more."
The psychology behind a security blanket is interesting. According to an article written by Fawn Fitter in "Psychology Today," "Children who are both insecurely attached to their mothers AND attached to their blankies seem to adjust better to anxiety-producing situations." For these children the security part of the concept is very real. The article also cites that, "the blanket promotes play and exploration," which is something Rebecca had to teach the children.
"I had to show the kids how to use their imagination to magically transform their blanket into a super hero cape or a tent or whatever they wanted it to be. They had no concept of using it for play."
Today, Rebecca is eager to spread as much warmth as she can across the world via QWL. She looks for volunteers who travel abroad and are willing to take blankets. She connects with people who do mission work or travel for business. Just recently, while on a World Pilgrim trip to Palestine, Rebecca convinced the tour guide and fellow attendees to venture off the beaten path to the SOS Children's Village where she hand delivered blankets to the children living there.
"Out of all the things I do, it moves my heart the most to see a child's face light up when I say, ‘This is for you.'"