Christmas: Nonprofit Covers with Love
By Dianne Anderson
Ida Marie Briggs is pushing her old Boss sewing machine – a straight stitch and overlap from another era – to the max, creating dozens of personalized comforters for local kids just in time for Christmas.
It is a labor of love that she knows will be nonstop in the days ahead.
Briggs, alumni of the Long Beach Neighborhood Leadership Program, started about 20 years ago working with children facing life-threatening illnesses to bring a little warmth to their world.
Her handmade quilts, Covers with Love, came out of working with foster system and hearing kids complain that their personal items were getting lost or ripped off.
They wanted something to call their own.
“One young lady said that she felt like nothing belonged to her, but a child won’t take something that has another child’s name on it,” said Briggs, founder of the nonprofit Mustard Seed Enterprises.
Since then, she has distributed hundreds of personalized quilts locally, and as far away as Africa, especially to children dealing with cancer or HIV/AIDS.
Currently, she works with six different Long Beach families, one family with 12 children, and also supports with Christmas gifts to help mothers that can’t make ends meet. Each family will receive their own Covered with Love quilt.
Closer to home, her good friend’s 30-year-old son was recently hospitalized with COVID-19 for over a month. Right away, Briggs began making a quilt while he was hospitalized over a month ago.
She never had a chance to finish it.
“I was making him one to take to the hospital, but he passed, so now I’m doing the memorial one for the family,” she said. “That one was hard for me. He’s like a son.”
Briggs receives referrals to the foster care system. Recently, she pulled down a grant from one big box chain store that is helping support her nonprofit. While she tries to go after grants, she said it’s hard to wade through the paperwork, and then wait.
“I’m like, I have a family in need right now, I can’t wait six weeks,” she said. “There’s so much red tape so I just do it myself.”
For one of her projects, she was able to supply 75 comforters to an orphanage in a remote village that is suffering from a very high HIV/AIDS infection rate.
Because healthcare is so limited, and parents are also infected, the children are either born with HIV, or they’re raped because there is still the belief that a virgin can cure AIDS. Last year, she went with a church that ministered to thousands of young ladies where sexual abuse is common.
“To read their stories and stats, I just cry,” she said. “Poverty is so entrenched. It was heartbreaking to see some of the villages we went to.”
In her recent visit to South Africa, she saw entire regions made up of portable garages with 10 to 15 people living there. During the day, they would use the makeshift structure to sell goods, and would sleep there at night.
Access to water systems was also off-limits, which happens frequently because it isn’t properly treated.
“One time we went and the water was off for the whole village,” she said. “No one could take a bath, or anything. They would meet at a center, we had to buy water for them to drink.”
Through her travels, there are always areas of high need, but she said most people can give something, and it’s usually not the big things that matter.
“A lot of people don’t do stuff because they feel like people really don’t need it, but they do. If you’re willing to buy socks, somebody needs it,” she said.
At first, she decided on comforters because she had a lot of extra fabric that she didn’t want to waste. Today she looks back at how much the blankets mean to the kids, and how perfect strangers open their doors to support her effort.
“I have businessmen downtown Los Angeles when I tell them what I do, they say lady pull your car up. They just give me the fabric because they know what I’m doing. It’s not a lot, but I make it work,” she said.
A little bit here and a little bit there, and 20 years later she has distributed over 500 blankets.
Some kids still have theirs decades later. They get attached.
One of her first quilts was for a foster kid, who is now grown.
“She won’t get rid of it. It’s so raggedy. I told her to let me make you another one, but she said no, this is mine,” Briggs said. “Now she is 30 years old.”
For those that want to donate to the cause, or to help sew the Covers with Love, contact Ida Briggs at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at https://www.facebook.com/marie.briggs.50