GAZELLE STL NOVEMBER 2017 - Page 83

COMMUNITY & CULTURE NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT I n another life, Carol Watanabe, founder and executive director of Little Patriots Embraced, designed and sold quilts to hospitals for their newborn programs. “Early one morning, I woke up to a design in my head, got it on paper and sent it to my factory for samples,” she recalled. “I loved the design, but it wasn’t one I could sell to hospitals. It was a patriotic design, and at that point, I still had no idea why I was compelled to bring it to life.” A few weeks later, Watanabe found herself in California for an industry conference. The date was Sept. 10, 2001. “I had the design with me, but still not understanding the significance until after that next day,” she said. “Everyone has their 9/11 story. Through all of the confusion and that long drive back to St. Louis in a rental car, I had time to think about our military and wondered what would happen next.” Fast forward to December 2003, when Watanabe met a mother of two (soon to be three) at a holiday party. “This young lady was crying, so I asked if I could help her. She said her husband left for Iraq, and wouldn’t be here for the birth of the child she carried,” Watanabe recalled. “She insisted that she wasn’t crying about serving her country, but instead she was sad because there was no organization that could show love for her kids and be of emotional support to her. She just wanted to know that someone