San Antonio couple empowering Honduran women one quilt at a time

Nonprofit One Common Thread provides work, income for impoverished women

One San Antonio couple understands the desperation many Hondurans feel and why they risk an unknown journey to the United States after living there. Now, they are providing work and empowerment to women who stitch quilts.

SAN ANTONIO – Each quilt in Courtney Kimball’s closet in her Stone Oak home tells a story.

“This one is Starry Night,” she said, proudly showing off the brilliant blue and yellow hues.

The quilts are cotton treasures stitched from scraps, handmade by a group of women in Honduras.

“It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous country,” she said. “Unfortunately, a very dangerous one.”

Courtney and her husband, Trent Kimball, have seen it first-hand. They lived in San Pedro Sula, one of Honduras’s most violent and impoverished areas, for three years.

The discovery of the deceased and suffering migrants, including at least two Hondurans, in the abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio is a tragedy to which they can relate. They understand the desperation to take a risk to seek a better life.

“The violence in their neighborhoods and the places where they live, the gang violence, or even just the lack of work, has driven them to be desperate,” Trent Kimball said.

The Kimballs moved to Honduras in 2017 to expand their armored vehicle business. Six of their nine children went with them.

For the first year, Courtney Kimball said she didn’t venture out of the safety of the apartment out of fear. Then, she decided it was time.

“I really felt like I needed to get to know the people and try to learn the language and try to do what I could to lift where I stood,” she said.

It was then that she met 13-year-old Skarleth.

“She asked me for a way to make $5, and I thought, ‘How can I help you make $5?’” Courtney said.

Courtney was making a wedding quilt for her daughter, so she taught Skarleth to make the little hexagon pieces.

“She would cut them and sew them, and she made 500 in a few days’ time,” Courtney recalled.

Courtney paid the girl $20.

“Her dad at the time was making about $30 a week,” she said.

Skarleth lived in the shantytown by the river, where a bed is a luxury, gang violence threatens and money is scarce.

“It’s a survival mentality,” Courtney said.

“It’s what drives people to get into those trucks. It’s survival. They think there’s no other option,” Trent said.

“And do I get that as a mother?” Courtney asked. “I get it.”

So the Kimballs are trying to help the women and their families where they are. Word spread about the quilting opportunity, and instead of helping 10 women, some 100 are now making little hexagon pieces for quilts that are now sold online through the nonprofit One Common Thread.

Courtney and her sister, Kym Frey of Utah, founded and run the nonprofit.

When a quilt sells, all of the profit goes back to the maker in Honduras. About eight percent goes to cover costs, Courtney said. One hundred percent of donations go to the women.

The wages they receive are life-changing.

“A whole new world of empowerment and just positivity entered these women’s lives,” Courtney said.

The couple also often returns to provide them with other necessities, like milk for a baby, a mattress for a child, a refrigerator, concrete floors or even a roof over their heads.

“We’re able to teach them how to open bank accounts, teach them things that they really just never had needed to do before,” Trent said. “We’re just trying to break that cycle that’s there and provide a future.”

The Kimballs don’t know how the sales and accounting will work out, but they know they are changing some stories, one hexagon at a time.

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.