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Quilts for Maui: Bozeman quilting company sends Lahaina fire victims a warm embrace

"They hug them so tight, it’s like their new possession—their only possession. It’s becoming an heirloom because they lost everything. There’s so many tragic stories.”
Posted at 10:37 AM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-12 12:57:35-04

BOZEMAN — From thousands of miles away, it’s hard for us to physically wrap our arms around those impacted by the fires in Maui. But one Bozeman business has found an easier way to embrace those affected—with quilts.

“It’s a profound sadness that I still feel,” said the owner of the Main Street Quilting Company, Gwen Wardell. “I’ve been there, I’ve seen how they live, and just to know all the people that we met in the cute shops—their livelihood is gone and possibly their lives too.”

Gwen Wardell is no stranger to Maui and the small town of Lahaina that she fell in love with.

“There was something about the first time I got off the plane, I was like, ‘Oh I could live here,’” said Wardell. “One of the places we went to was the Maui Quilt Shop, and we got to meet the girls there.”

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Gwen Wardell

She says she still recalls the horror she felt when she realized the magnitude of the fires ripping through such a beautiful community.

“I called the quilt shop and asked if there’s anything we could do to help,” said Wardell.

The owner of the Maui Quilt Shop, Marilyn Sameshima, answered the phone that day.

“When one part of Maui hurts, we all hurt, and I wanted to comfort people,” said Sameshima.

And what better way to do that than with a quilt.

With a simple Facebook post, Sameshima sparked inspiration in the quilting community to gift the people of Lahaina with something from the heart.

“The fabulous quilts I’ve been receiving, they’re so beautiful and people are giving away their treasures,” said Sameshima.

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Sameshima has received over 1,500 quilts from across the country. 61 of those quilts came from the Main Street Quilting Company in Bozeman, packed up and shipped off by Gwen Wardell.

“There are probably thousands and thousands of hours in the quilts that are about to be mailed and I’m excited to share that,” said Wardell. “Most of all, the joy we get when we give them is immeasurable.”

Sameshima says getting to watch the joy on people’s faces when they receive these quilts is priceless.

"They hug them so tight, it’s like their new possession—their only possession,” said Sameshima. “It’s becoming an heirloom because they lost everything. There’s so many tragic stories.”

maui quilts sewing.jpg

Sameshima says there is a long road of recovery and healing ahead for Maui.

“It was horrific, the devastation that it did,” said Sameshima. “We cry, we hug, but when they leave the store, they smile.”

And even though a quilt can bring joy…

“Sending a quilt is not going to be what helps rebuild their lives,” said Wardell. “The best thing the community can do is not forget Maui."

To donate a quilt to the people of Lahaina, you can send it to: Maui Quilt Shop, 18 Central Ave., Wailuku, HI, 96793.

Or you can drop it off at the Main Street Quilting Company, 128 E Main St., Bozeman, MT, 59715.