Group has been helping people, groups far and wide since the 50s

Visit First Lutheran Church (FLC) in Fargo most any Monday morning and you will hear the hum of activity from the basement. It’s is home to the very organized and determined FLC Quilting Committee, making quilts for Lutheran World Relief, church mission trips and various causes and events that impact the local community.

The First Lutheran Church Quilt Committee with a recently completed quilt that was be donated in early March. The group includes (left to right): Ginny Danielson, Phyllis Peterson, Frieda Bentz, Betty Leverson, Donna Alby, Vi Helmer, Connie Swanson, Vonne Anderson, Charlotte Nielson, Becky Anderson, Clara Nelson, LeMae Friskop, Betty Holmen and Pam Burkhardt. Photo by Lisa Ridder

The halls of the church echo with laughter and talking. Once arriving in the quilting space, one is welcomed with bright smiles and ladies eager to give a tour of their quilting operation. This group of ladies is humble about their talent and so grateful for their space, stock of supplies, equipment and donations, all of which are necessary in completing the tasks at hand. They are quick to point out that donations of fabrics come from group members, their families, friends, community members, and even other quilting groups within the community. They are also appreciative of church contributions that allow them to purchase fabric to have on hand. One of their mottos is waste nothing and that is exactly what they do. They try to find a purpose for everything they receive. If they can’t use it, they pass it on to groups that can. Likewise, because of the strong relations they have with other groups, they, in return, receive items and supplies they can use that the other groups cannot. There is a true knowledge, understanding and respect for what the other quilting and crafting groups in the area do. They are also thankful to the FLC Helping Hands Group for providing the boxes they use to ship quilts to Lutheran World Relief.

The group consists of approximately 22 people.  While they all have their certain roles, they are quick to point out that because the size of the group changes at times, they all chip in when and where they are needed.  Some people take extended time away to spend either summers at the lakes or winters in warmer climates. It was mentioned more than once that when someone joins they are usually part of the group until health issues force them to leave the group. While the group has had member changes from time to time, they never forget the people they have met and worked so closely with every Monday morning for years.

Quilting has long been part of the church’s history.  Pam Burkhardt provides archival assistance within the church.

“The committee has been meeting formally since the 1950’s,” said Burkhardt.

The 1932 name quilt. Squares for this quilt were sold for 10-15 cents each. Contributed photo

According to other information supplied by Burkhardt, around 1918, when a finished quilt was brought to an Aid meeting, it would be auctioned off.  Name quilts also brought in money. People would pay 10-15 cents to have their name embroidered on a quilt block.

Their quilts and general mission has changed over the years. The FLC Quilting Committee’s primary mission is to provide quilts for Lutheran World Relief, donating approximately 280 quilts over the last 12 months to the mission. They also provide quilts for the various mission trips church members embark on each year. They have 26 quilts to donate for the Mexico mission trip coming up in June.

Becky Anderson is the newest member of the quilting committee, having also participated in four church mission trips to Mexico.

“I wait until the last minute to give my quilt away before leaving,” she said. “It is very emotional, as I know I will never see that person again until we meet in heaven.”

The quilters are very proud and excited to also have mission opportunities that impact the local community. In the last 12 months, they have donated six quilts to the YWCA. They assembled 20 Christmas quilts that were sold and money raised was used to purchase additional fabric and batting.

“The quilts are a gift warmth, handmade with love and prayed over while being made,” said Pastor Laurie Neill.

Becky Anderson and Ginny Danielson working on tying a quilt. Photo by Lisa Ridder

The newest project they have been asked to provide quilts for is the Home Sweet Home Project. Carolyn Espel is one of the FLC members involved with the project. The project is the result of a summer 2019 meeting with members of First Lutheran Church and the nearby Salvation Army. The church members wanted to be a part of something that would impact the people of downtown Fargo. Since both organizations are based downtown, the partnership seemed like a good fit. The group wanted to make an impact in a way that was not already being done in the area. The Salvation Army selected the project name and it was decided the church member’s mission would be to create and distribute welcome kits to people who were making the transition from being homeless to having their own apartment. It is the church group’s hope that they will have a chance to foster a relationship with those they help, providing an opportunity for mentoring and coaching. The project is just getting going. The kits include a variety of basic household items needed to start a household, including things like dishes, cookware, cleaning items and a donated quilt from the quilting committee.

“The quilts are a really nice personal touch as they are and made with love and prayer,” said Espel.  “They are also very well made.  The recipients genuinely appreciate the kits and are overwhelmed and speechless to see a beautiful quilt on top of the items they receive.”

Charlotte Nielson completes the finishing and binding of the quilts, which is the last stop before donating. Photo by Lisa Ridder

Once the members of the Home Sweet Home Project receive a name of the next recipient, kits are assembled and members set out to connect with the individuals. They have delivered four kits so far and have recently had an opportunity to start following up with the individuals they helped, seeing if they can assist them in other ways. Thanks to donations from congregation members, including one 10 year old member who held a fundraiser and raised $500, they now have three bonus kits on top of the five they try to have readily available.

Committee members explained when they have a full group they can complete 10-12 quilts in one morning. To date, the group has assembled and donated 11 quilts to the Home Sweet Home Project. Several members indicated this is not the first or only time they have provided quilts that have benefited the homeless, but in all cases they are happy to participate in the missions requested. During a meeting with the group, they pointed out they were not the only church quilting group in the community and many of the other groups have contributed to projects that benefit the area homeless as well.

The group has guidelines they follow.  Quilt fabrics displaying patriotic, military, holiday and religious themes cannot be used for Lutheran World Relief and other overseas missions. Aside from the Christmas quilts that they sell and use a supply fundraiser, they do not sell the quilts they make. Their quilts are made of cotton. Due to being a smaller size, lap quilts received are donated to veterans and area nursing homes. If they receive a really nice top, they finish it and donate the quilt to a fundraiser.

FLC Quilting Committee enjoying a coffee break in 2005. Left to right: Dorothy Nelson, Lois Altenburg, Esther Hoiem, Bev Thompson, Joanne Drenkow, Mina Zandtke, Lilliam Viken, Adeline Chadwick, Orrel Buringrud

Almost all of the group members are involved in a variety of other missions that benefit the community as well as people in other countries. Vi Helmer is also a member of the knitting and crocheting group, which makes prayer shawls for church members in need and they also make baby blankets that are presented to the families of every baby baptized in the church. Donna Alby makes the Christmas quilt tops at home and then they are tied and finished during Monday quilting sessions. Ginny Danielson makes heart shaped pain pillows, which she donates to local hospitals. LaMae Friskop makes alter cloths, VA activity bags and diapers for layettes. Becky Anderson works on hygiene kits for elementary students, Youth Work and homeless vets. Some of the members help at the Great Plains Food Bank. Some members quilts with this group and also with their own church group. Their individual and group mission resumes are packed with heart, creativity, passion and love. The group takes great pride in their individual and combined contributions.  Dedication and determination drive them to waste nothing, pursue their many heartfelt missions and value those around them.

When asked what was the best part of this group experience? They stopped, looked around and without hesitation said in unison, “each other.”

They look forward to Monday mornings filled with new tasks, teamwork, creativity and time spent with the people they are so proud to call their friends.