April 7, 2017
For members of Liberal’s Grace Lutheran Church, a trip to the receiving dock at Southwest Medical Center means another cycle in their ministry is about to begin.
As dozens of boxes are loaded into vehicles, volunteers gather at the church to receive this new delivery of cotton blankets, sheets, and heavy blankets simply referred to as “gold.” These used fabrics are carried into a classroom at the church which has been filled with bookcases of colorful fabrics, threads and tables on which layers of fabric rest ready to be transformed into quilts for recipients in need of comfort and warmth.
Sherry Fick, a founding member of Grace Lutheran Church’s ministry, explains that quilting has always been a
longstanding tradition for Lutheran churches around the world. Grace Lutheran Church of Liberal began their quilting ministry just over a year ago.
Although their team of around a dozen volunteers felt 100 quilts would be a far-reaching goal, more than 220 quilts were completed in their first year of service. Most quilts completed stay close to the community and are donated to a variety of recipients in need – including fire victims, homeless shelters, drug rehabilitation programs, veteran’s assisted living homes and more.
Producing hundreds of quilts is no easy task, but there are many helping hands which transform these used fabrics along the way. As linens are taken out of use by Southwest Medical Center for patient care, SWMC Environmental Services Director, Pam Toney, reaches out to the group to arrange pick-up of these items. Volunteers then sort fabrics according to size and how the material will be used.
“Once the sheets are sorted, we have a lady at our church who helps dye these,” Fick said. “We never worry too much about what colors they’re dyed because miraculously, we always have a top which will match the colors.”
After fabrics are dyed, they’re matched with appropriate fabrics, ironed, and eventually laid out on tables for quilting. Grace Lutheran volunteer, Susie Engelman, typically helps in the matching process and arranges the fabrics to be quilted by others.
The final process involves sewing the final edges together. Fick said this takes about 20 minutes for an adult size quilt on a sewing machine, and that they have a volunteer who stepped in to fill that need.
“One day after church, Lewis Winkler approached us and asked who is in charge of the quilting,” Fick said. “He said, ‘I could sew your quilts for you.’ So we put him to work while Susie was out for a trip.”
“He’s been doing our bindings ever since,” Engelman said with a laugh.
“There’s something for everybody, you don’t have to have a special talent,” Fick said. “That’s what we try to emphasize – we can also teach you how to quilt and you would be off and running.”
Engelman explained one of the team’s favorite tasks is searching out fabrics for quilt tops. She makes time to search for fabrics with her sister, April, at yard sales and thrift shops. Most often, donated supplies help the quilting team meet the needs of recipients.
“One donation we received are our repurposed quilting tables. All our tables were recycled and built for us by one of our church members, Udell Lofland, to be able to quilt on,” Engelman said. “It’s also really nice to receive the sheets from the hospital. If they’re something others can no longer use, we can take the fabric and turn it into something really special for someone else.”
“These are hand-made pieces of comfort for the people that receive them,” Fick added.
Grace Lutheran Church’s ministry not only benefits the recipients of these quilts, but allows members to fellowship over fabric in a way that’s created lifelong friendships.
“Anytime I have stress in my life, I can come here, spend time with my friends, quilt, and work on something to help someone else,” Fick added. “When you do that, all your problems see to disappear. We really enjoy the work we’ve done together.”
As the quilting team enters their second year of ministry, they welcome new volunteers to join them in their work – whether through the donation of time, quilting talents, or the donation of supplies. Those interested in the Grace Lutheran Church quilting ministry can contact Sherry Fick at (620) 655-1755 or Susie Engelman at (620) 255-9242.