Ceres quilter spreads warmth wherever she can

CERES — Angie Van Wagoner can remember the first time she realized how giving her mom is.

It was 1972, and Angie's sister was heading to kindergarten for the first time

"She didn't want my mom to leave, so Mom stayed there all day," Van Wagoner said. "She volunteered in my sister's classroom every day through the third grade. After that, the district hired her as a teacher's aide."

JoAnn Morton, now 63, retired in 2007 after 37 years working in schools. Now she's taken her giving to a nearly professional level.

Morton -- with help from Sandi Scott, her best friend of 40 years -- makes quilts throughout the year. This week, she's giving away 104 of them for the holidays. She has stops planned at the Children's Crisis Center in Turlock, and Haven Women's Center and Evergreen Rehabilitation Care Center in Modesto.

"A quilt gives people comfort," Morton said.

Morton is all about the comfort.

"She keeps quilts in her car and gives them out just because," Scott said.

"And gloves," reminded Van Wagoner.

Morton also carries gloves around and gives them to anyone who looks a little cold and needy.

"I gave a pair to a little girl with her mother yesterday, and she said she didn't have any gloves," Morton said.

All year, Morton picks up fabric anywhere she can find a good deal -- craft stores, discount shops, yard sales. Then she picks out patterns she thinks go well together and gets to work.

She isn't always sure going in what a finished quilt will look like. "I try to make every one a little bit different," she said.

Jason Visola, Evergreen's activities director, said residents appreciate their quilts.

"She's definitely giving them something that will give them a lot of happiness through the whole year, not just at Christmas," he said.

Visola pointed out that Morton visits regularly and talks to patients. She learns their interests, then tailors their quilts to match.

Morton's father-in-law, an Evergreen resident, wears a cowboy hat and boots -- he got a Western-themed quilt.

"Not too many people really take that much time out to do something that kind and nice," Visola said. "It's very important to them. As you get older, you tend to always be cold, and they like having the quilts on their lap or bed."

Morton said that with Scott contributing the tacking -- stitches in the middle of squares to keep the quilt padding from moving around -- she can make nine quilts in two days.

"But that's doing nothing but making quilts," she noted.

She started making quilts with special education students she worked with in a cooking-and-home class at Modesto High School.

"We made our own aprons and then the kids made quilts," Morton said.

Van Wagoner grew up knowing her mom was special.

"If you need it, if my mom has it, she'll give it to you," Van Wagoner said. "And if she doesn't have it, she'll get it."

For Morton, she said the smile she gets when giving away her quilts makes all the work worthwhile.

A recent visit to her home left no question about the joy she gets from giving: A visitor meeting Morton for the first time walked away with a soy candle. "I like to give these out, too," Morton said.

Then Van Wagoner came running out of the house, waving a quilt.

"My mom wanted you to have this."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at or 578-2343.

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