A Facebook post by the City of Ames went viral over the weekend as the organizers of Rummage RAMPage — and hundreds of social media users — tried to reunite a beloved quilt with its owner.
Dawn Taylor was in the middle of moving from Ames to Austin, Texas, when she learned that her quilt, adorned with tulip designs and lovingly created by her grandmother, had accidentally been dropped off at the community garage sale, which started Saturday and continues through this Saturday.
She’d left behind a box of bedding that was going to be shipped to her in Austin because there was no room in the moving truck or in her car.
“We had a box of stuff that was going to Rummage RAMPage and a box of bedding that was going to my sister’s, and somehow it all ended up with Rummage RAMPage,” Taylor said.
On Saturday, the City of Ames posted a photo of the quilt on Facebook.
“If you purchased the quilt in the photo, please know its family would really like it back. It was accidentally donated and has great sentimental value,” the post read. “Please return the quilt to the ramp for a full refund and lots of thanks!”
More than 700 people shared that original post, with hundreds more sharing related posts about the Rummage RAMPage.
“I wasn’t mad with anyone about the quilt being gone. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a move, and things happen,” Taylor said. “But I was sure hoping to get my grandmother’s quilt back.”
Fortunately, earlier in the day, Rummage RAMPage organizers happened to take a photo of the tulip quilt, pictured along with another hand-stitched quilt not owned by Taylor.
“Enough people shared the post and passed the story around to different Facebook groups and their own pages. And fortunately, whoever had it brought it back,” Taylor said.
The man who had purchased the quilt returned it to the cashier at the Rummage RAMPage on Sunday and said he wanted to remain anonymous.
“He didn’t want a refund and was happy for that money to go to the organizations supported by the Rummage RAMPage,” Taylor said. “We’re just really appreciative of the really good soul who found it and returned it to us.”
Another good soul who bought the other hand-stitched quilt that was pictured in the original post also brought her purchase back to the ramp, thinking it was the one being sought.
“She hauled it all the way back there and said she didn’t know if it was the one, but she’d bought it and wanted to make sure,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t, but it was a lovely, kind gesture, too.”
Anne Taylor, an Ames resident and Dawn Taylor's sister, was instrumental in communicating with Rummage RAMPage organizers about the missing quilt.
“Our grandma, Frances Taylor, had made several quilts over the course of her life, and when she passed away and the family cleaned out our grandparents’ house, the quilts were handed down to each of the grandchildren. My guess is she made the quilts in the late '60s and throughout the early '80s. She passed away in 1993 and we closed up their house in summer 1994.”
Dawn Taylor plans to have the tulip quilt on her bed in her new home in Austin. She said she was optimistic about the quilt’s return when she saw how many people were commenting on and sharing the Facebook post.
“Lots of people seemed to be invested in this story,” Dawn Taylor said. “If there was something we could all unite around, it was the lost quilt.”
When Rummage RAMPage organizer Susan Gwiasda found out about the missing quilt, she was not particularly optimistic. Not because she doesn’t have faith in people, but because there had been such a large volume of items sold during the sale so far.
“I just wasn’t sure the message would get through. It seemed like such a long shot. But, wow, what a fabulous ending,” she said.
The post reached tens of thousands of people and was shared hundreds of times, she said.
“It was impressive because we get a fair amount of attention to our organization’s social media. But this was far beyond the reach that we typically get. It really touched a lot of people,” said Gwiasda, who is the city of Ames’ public information officer.
“You could tell by the comments that people felt an emotional connection to the story. Either they had gifts from their own grandmothers that would be priceless, or they just got caught up in the story,” she added.
Now in its sixth year, the Rummage RAMPage has established a following of its own, Gwiasda said.
“A lot of people are excited about the event and look forward to it,” she said.
The Rummage RAMPage accepts donations of furniture and household items that are sold during an eight-day sale at a parking ramp called the Ames Intermodal Facility, located at 129 Hayward Ave.
Donations are still being accepted each day through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m. The sale itself is also being held during those hours as well as Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, when things will be half-price. No donated items will be accepted on Saturday.
“Anne Taylor is actually the one years ago who came up with the name Rummage RAMPage,” Gwiasda said. “She was very involved in Campustown and the Campustown Business Association, and six years ago when we were trying to get this event going, I remember her saying she’d come up with the name Rummage RAMPage with the emphasis on ramp.”
Calling Anne Taylor to let her know the quilt had been returned was the most memorable moment for Rummage RAMPage organizer Merry Rankin, who’s the director of sustainability at Iowa State.
“Calling Anne and hearing the joy in her voice — I felt really privileged to be a part of that moment, to deliver that news,” Rankin said. “When she came to the ramp to get the quilt, the true joy and relief — that was really special.”
This reunion was a lovely story, but the Rummage RAMPage has seen innumerable touching stories over the years.
“There are so many wonderful stories of families donating items that have been meaningful to them and then another young family or a family with a child with disabilities immediately latch on to an item,” Rankin said. “Just knowing that item will continue to bring joy to other people.
“It’s the unintended and not immediately recognized joy in this event.”
The Rummage RAMPage may bring joy, but it also has a positive impact on the environment and is a boon for local nonprofit organizations.
“Over the course of five years, we’ve kept 200 tons of material from being sent to the landfill,” Rankin said. “The items that come to the event are not beneficial fuel for the Resource Recovery Center (which burns garbage and converts it to electricity), so they would be going to a landfill.
“When you walk around and see how much use these items still have, it’s amazing the things that come in.”
The sale has raised more than $100,000 for the nonprofit organizations and Iowa State student organizations that volunteer at least 10 hours of service to the event.
“It’s wonderful to be able to support the important missions and initiatives of these groups and support their great work,” Rankin said.
Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. Reach her at email@example.com.