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Northeast Iowa Quilters Provide Comfort to Those in Need
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Northeast Iowa Quilters Provide Comfort to Those in Need

CALMAR--For twenty years now, homemade quilts have been given to the graduating seniors in Calmar. The tradition continues for this year’s graduating seniors as well, as a group called the Calmar Lutheran WELCA (Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) presented the quilts at a special service for them recently.

The seniors will take the quilts along to college with them as they move out of their comfort zone of small town life and out into the big, (sometimes cold) world that lies ahead. At the event, the ladies told the seniors that the quilt will keep them connected to their parish as they take it along on their journey. Some will put the quilt on their dorm bed and it will remind them of the love of their friends, family, and their their home. They may find themselves snuggled up in the warmth of the quilt as they brave the life ahead of them, make new friends, live in new places, and begin new lives. The quilt is not only a practical gift, but symbolizes the warmth of the community that is always there for the graduates, as they continue on their journey. As Hillary Clinton once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

The quilter’s club not only donates their time and talent to give back to the community, but also to Lutheran World Relief projects.

About twenty women from the congregation help with Lutheran World Relief projects. These projects include mission quilts, health kits, sewing kits, school kits, and layettes and are sent throughout the world by the National LWR organization. Approximately eight to twelve women participate each week. They meet almost once weekly from August through April. The group also has a few members who work from their homes in their spare time piecing quilt tops, assembling layettes, and creating school kits.

The articles made are collected twice a year at Olson Explosives from all of the participating Northeast Iowa churches, and trucked to a warehouse in Minneapolis for a small donation from the churches, to help cover the fuel costs. The church group usually puts out a few quilts at those times. They sell those quilts for about $25.00, each and they donate some of that money to “Project Comfort” at the national level to help cover shipping costs as the quilts and various kits are sent around the world.

The group has an assembly system where everyone has a certain job. Barb Horns and Judy Kock usually assemble the quilt layers and pin them together. Goldie Mae Hillesland, Lorraine Wangsness, Nancy Witt, Ginny Pavlovec, Alice Kurash, Lorraine Sindelar, Eunice Wermers, Alice Stenseth, Bernice Winters, Amy Shilts, Lorene Geiselhart, Ilse Meyer, Phyllis Faldet and sometimes Fred Boettcher tie the quilts and pin the hems. Shirley Steggall usually does the machine hemming. Cookie (Margaret) Thompson and Ruth Bjonerud take care of the kitchen duties for the potluck lunches. Lana Ott assembles layettes at home from items that have been donated. Margaret Suhr and Judy Kock make lots and lots of quilt tops at home from donated fabric. Helen Johnson has made many baby quilts for baptisms. Karen Anderson puts together their school kits.

We welcome any help we can get. We tell newcomers that they will not be graded on their workmanship, and if they make a mistake, they are always given another chance, again and again. No one gets fired. One of our members has a son who was in Afghanistan. In one of the pictures he randomly took, there was a cow in the background with a relief type quilt thrown over its back, so our comment on perfection is ‘The cow doesn’t care.’ Many other area churches do similar projects and each has their own unique system to get this accomplished,” explains President Shirley Steggall.

Almost all of their materials are donated, picked up at The Depot in Decorah, or other second hand stores, or garage sales. Fred collects lots of blankets, especially electric blankets, from  which he removes all the wires. They are used in place of batting in the mission quilts. The fundraisers, such as Lenten soup suppers provide funds to buy some of the supplies they need to assemble the other LWR kits.

Shirley goes on to say, “In addition to the quilts we send to LWR, we have given quilts to Helping Services, the local food bank, Bremwood in Waverly, the local law enforcement agencies to keep in their squad cars if they would be needed in case of an accident, our local fire department and nursing homes. We give lap robes to our members on their 80th birthdays. We give baby quilts to our newly baptized babies and regular quilts to anyone who gets baptized when they are older.”

The church group recently put four quilts out for a silent auction to raise money to buy new stoves for the parish kitchen.

Over the last four years, this group has sent over 1,200 quilts to Lutheran World Relief, plus the quilts they have given locally. Additionally, over 200 layettes, 100 health kits, eighty sewing kits and 140 school kits were given to Lutheran World Relief. These items were made with warm hands and hearts for people here in our area and all around the world by this group of generous people who give their time to help and comfort others in need.


*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

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