KENNEWICK — Sewing is a passion for Betty Jean Overstreet, owner of Stitch N Bug, a Kennewick fabric and quilt store.
At age 78, the longtime seamstress has no plans to retire. But Overstreet hasn't been able to run her beloved shop since being diagnosed late last year with pancreatic cancer and starting chemotherapy.
"She feels tired; it's frustrating," said Jennifer Woodrome of Richland, Overstreet's granddaughter. "She still has the same mind, the same drive, to do all the projects she wants to do, but her body does not cooperate."
For several weeks, the doors remained locked with the lights turned off. Then Overstreet's friends stepped up and reopened the business.
Lisa Steele, who rents space in Overstreet's building and owns Pipsqueaks, a children's boutique, completed the back orders for leather repairs and is taking orders for more.
Before she opened the quilt shop, Overstreet worked out of her home. For years, part of her business has been doing alterations on military fatigues, including creating and sewing on patches, and sewing custom leather clothing and doing repairs for the biker community.
"I have an industrial sewing machine," Steele said, "so I'm not afraid of Betty's big machine. It's just a matter of getting the guts to do it. I told myself leather is just a different material and clientele."
"It's been quite comical" having Harley-Davidson guys and cowboys come into her boutique, Steele said.
Two of Overstreet's friends, Mary Judy and Amelia Beadle, both of Kennewick, also stepped in to help run the shop with Woodrome.
"Mary and I talked, and she could come in one day a week and I could manage Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her granddaughter has Fridays and Saturdays," Beadle said.
The family tried to keep the shop open weekends, Beadle said. "But if it's not open consistently, people stop coming."
All of the women are volunteering because they care for Overstreet.
"The shop and her little Pomeranian are everything to Betty," Beadle said.
Woodrome has been in and out of her grandmother's shop for years -- "trying to soak up her decades of sewing knowledge" -- but never has been employed there.
"I was grateful when Amelia offered to help because she used to own a quilt shop," Woodrome said. "And Lisa has been a godsend doing the leather work."
Judy, a longtime friend of Overstreet's and an avid quilter, has taken on some of the ordering for the store.
Steele said Overstreet isn't in business so much for the money.
"She's very community driven," Steele said. "She has quilting classes, quilt guilds and friendship groups meet here after hours. It's neat to see all her friends and family pitch in to make it work.
"We're like family here. We look out for each other. We all just jump in and cut fabric or whatever. We just do what needs to be done."