Sometimes our lives are like a patchwork quilt, made up of many small pieces that can appear confusing and misconfigured — chaotic. But when the pieces are assembled correctly and bound together by a caring hand, they become something beautiful and comforting.
Loyda Sandoval has made helping others her life’s work – being the gentle stitch that helps bring beauty to people’s lives. She works for the Arkansas Department of Career Education, helping connect Arkansans with disabilities with the services they need. In her spare time, she makes beautiful quilts for children in hospitals and at the drop-in childcare center at The Excel Center® – Arkansas’s first adult high school operated by Goodwill. The school works with students to overcome barriers, such as child care and transportation, and help them earn their high school diploma.
“It is relaxing,” she says. “I read a lot, so I can put on a book-on-tape and quilt at the same time.”
The quilts are always colorful, soft and the perfect size to make a child feel cozy and safe. The artistry and detail are impressive. It’s a skill Loyda learned not from her mother or grandmother — but in prison.
“I like to watch it grow.”
A decade ago, Loyda was struggling with a drug addiction – specifically Methamphetamines. Loyda’s addiction eventually led her to prison where she spent 7 years behind bars. While incarcerated, Loyda began her recovery, learned to quilt, and developed a passion for giving back.
Several women in the prison participated in the Linus Project, a nonprofit organization that donates security blankets to children in need. The quilts that Loyda and the other women created were donated to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
When Loyda was released in 2015, she moved into the City of Faith, a federal half-way house centered around volunteerism and community service. She also joined Goodwill’s Transitional Employment Opportunity Program, a re-entry program that teaches job skills to people returning from prison and helps connect them with employment opportunities. It was a pivotal three months for Loyda, as she saw her life-changing.
“God blessed me there.”
In January of 2016, Loyda graduated from the TEO program and was hired by Franke’s Cafeteria in Little Rock. Over the next year-and-a-half, she worked hard, learned new skills and was living the life she’d worked hard to earn. But Loyda had more ambitious goals. In July of 2017, she was offered a job with the state, helping a population who often have difficulty accessing resources. Just as Goodwill stepped in to help Loyda change her life, she wanted to help others improve their lives.
Remember those goals Loyda had? Well, she wasn’t quite finished.
Loyda loves her new career and is using what she learned in prison to give back to those who helped rebuild her life. Using scraps of material and an artistic touch, she carefully crafts beautiful quilts for the childcare center at The Excel Center, Goodwill’s adult high school, which is steps away from where she first began her journey in Goodwill’s TEO program.
“It was a good way for me to give back. I probably do it for a selfish reason too, because I feel like I need to give back.”
Loyda presented Goodwill’s Excel Center with three quilts this spring and has plans to make more.
“Now that I’m here, I feel like it’s full circle. I plan to make around 11. That’s the plan.”