Carolyn Doyle is an avid quilt maker.
I made a quilt for my daughter after 9/11. It was not inspired by the event, but making it as I was watching coverage was somehow healing for me, Doyle said.
Four years ago, Doyle wanted to start making her own clothes and began taking classes at Carrboros Mulberry Silks first, a morning class and eventually adding an afternoon class.
Every Thursday I sew all day at Mulberry Silks. I think it is one of the nicest things that has happened to me since I retired, she said. I have great friends there.
As they cut and stitch, the friends, including owners Elizabeth Kobesky and Cathleen Heaton, talk.
On the Thursday before Christmas, as was happening over much of the world, the conversation was about Newtown, Conn.. On Dec. 14, 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown were shot and killed.
People were just so grief stricken. It was something about the children that just left people speechless, Doyle said. Cathy mentioned that Ann Curry, the news correspondent for NBC, had asked people to commit 26 acts of kindness in their communities to honor the children and educators killed in Newtown. The notion was that this would grow and that something positive would come out of this tragedy. Cathy said that she and her daughter were going to buy 26 bags of dog food the next day to take to the animal shelter.
For years, Doyle has been quietly improving her community. She is a member of the Orange County Arts Guild, a loyal supporter of the PORCH hunger-relief program, and makes and gives her quilts as well as the pottery she is also well known for to many local and national nonprofits and hospitals for use in their fundraising. Doyle also sells her art at The Clay Centre and Womancraft.
I thought Anns idea was wonderful, and I knew I wanted to do something, she said.
Doyle had recently seen some fabric dolls in a sewing magazine. A light bulb went on, and I decided to make 26 dolls. I have tons of fabric, and we dont celebrate the holidays, so I could lose myself in this project.
Doyle, who was a professor of immunology at Duke University, decided that she would give the dolls to the Childrens Health Center at Duke Hospital for their young patients.
She began by completely finishing one doll before starting another. The shape of each doll was the same but the fabric and face on each were different, making them as unique as snowflakes.
Something happened after Doyle finished 13 dolls.
My daughter came over and I showed them to her, Doyle said. She said they were not really dolls for children, they are like art dolls. I started looking at them differently when she said that.
The immensity of the number of dolls is related to how many lives were lost; it became a statement piece, she explained. Somehow looking at them taken together compounded the losses. That is when I decided to have a photo taken and talk about it and try to inspire other people to do things in our community.
Doyle still wanted the dolls to be given to the patients at the health center but before they were distributed, she hoped they could be shown
Last week, Doyle delivered the 26 dolls to Edith Rosenblatt, the volunteer coordinator for childrens services at Duke Hospital who arranged them in a display case in the health center along with a statement by Doyle.
As soon as the dolls were secured in the display case, there were parents and staff who came over to look and take a moment to remember, Rosenblatt said. They will likely be seen by thousands of people over the next few weeks before being distributed to 26 patients.
It is impossible to measure the effect of acts of kindness but Doyle said when she brought the dolls to her sewing class, they not only loved them, they were also overwhelmed. A potter friend who learned about her dolls told Doyle that she has decided to write letters to 26 legislators and ask them to enact gun control.
Doyle turned 60 last November and in anticipation of that milestone, she decided she was going to follow Bruce Springsteen, who she calls the poet of her generation. To date, she has seen him in concert in Greensboro, Hartford, Washington and Philadelphia. Another goal was to work as hard as possible to get President Obama re-elected and so Doyle became a regular at the campaign office in Southern Village entering data into a computer.
The Obama thing has changed my life, she said. I realize he is a community organizer for the country and I have come to realize that you can make a difference in small ways in doing things that suit you and yet help your community and make it a better place to live. I think that is Obamas message, that even the little things we do make a difference.
Accepting Currys challenge has also changed Doyles life.
I am not so motivated any more to make things to sell to people, she said. I am looking for other projects. I want to give things.