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Stitched with love

Quilters have donated nearly 2,000 quilts since 1994.

    It’s been almost two decades since the St. Andrew’s Catholic Church Mission Quilters of Fairfax started sewing quilts. Four ladies first began making quilts at one of their homes back in 1994. Now the group consists of about 14 women who’ve sewed nearly 2,000 quilts for distribution over a 19-year period. Averaging more than 100 quilts a year, the St. Andrew’s quilters get together for five hours every Friday from October to Easter to assemble quilts that are sent to several charities, organizations and people in need. Some of the regular recipients of quilts are Mary Jo Copeland’s Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, We Care based out of Morgan, the Renville County Food Shelf, Veterans Service Office in Olivia, veterans hospitals and far away to the New Ulm Diocese Mission at San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. “Whoever we hear needs a quilt, we can make it for them,” said Delores Kortz. Kortz, one of the original mission quilters, directs the weekly gathering, which moved from private homes to the church basement social hall as the group became larger. Then in 2006, an opportunity became available for the women to relocate across the parking lot to nearby St. Andrew’s School building where they’ve set up shop in one of the former classrooms. “This is a wonderful place for us to work,” said Marge Schmidt who operates one of the four sewing machines. “We just turn out the lights when we’re finished for the day and go home, whereas before we had to always put everything away after each time we were in the church hall,” she explained. “Almost all of the materials and supplies needed to make quilts are donated,” said Kortz. Everything is sorted once the material arrives, and most all of it is of quality fabric. In fact, the women just received a couple of containers of camouflage material that will be made into quilts for veterans. “My son-in-law, Army Major Steven Weber, told me that the military was changing out uniforms and a lot of it was just sitting around,” said St. Andrew’s parishioner Colleen Schweiss. “So, I got two tubs full of the old uniforms for the ladies to make into quilts.” Donations include just about everything needed to make a quilt, from the batting, yarn, pins and thread to ironing boards, sewing machines and chairs. “We continue to get a lot of support for what we do,” Kortz commented. “We even had one of our sewing machines donated to us by someone in Florida.” Quilts that are in various stages of completion are spread out over six large former social hall wooden lunch tables connected end-to-end, which nearly fills the center space of the classroom. As the quilters arrive each Friday they all take their place around the quilts as in a production assembly line. “We’ve all been together for so long everybody knows what to do, and we just get it done,” noted Kortz. While some sew, others cut or iron quilt blocks, pin, tie them off and trim. Every quilt has its own character. Themes, colors, designs and sizes are selected to be made into quilts. Size is of importance for the veterans hospitals, which must be of a certain 63×87-inch dimension. Not much goes to waste, as some material that doesn’t go into a quilt is even used to make pillows. While they work it’s also a chance for the women to catch up on the weekly town news and events. But after four or five hours of putting quilts together, the ladies are tired at the end of another good day. “It’s a good tiredness though,” said Regina Jandl, who just finished putting the finishing touches to another great quilt. “Nobody likes to be cold, and the thought of keeping somebody warm is a blessing,” she added. “For all of us this probably is a labor of love, and we enjoy putting a hobby to a good purpose,” Kortz stated. A running yearly tally of the number of quilts assembled since the group moved to the school is written on the classroom chalkboard, along with any other special notes, reminders or updates for the quilters. In all, close to 600 quilts have been made in this location after making the transition from the church basement. Several volunteers and the Fairfax Lions Club helps get quilts distributed in the community too. The Lions sell chances on quilts at scheduled breakfast events and the annual sweet corn feed. A quilt is also sold each summer at the church Funfest fundraiser in August. Kortz said quilts usually disappear pretty fast when they’re delivered to various places. “It’s a good feeling to know you’ve done something to help others.” Quilting is a talent that has extended down through the ages, from the days when friends and neighbors would get together to quilt and socialize. It’s been popular with other church groups in Fairfax as well, as quilts also have been made at Our Savior’s and Central Lutheran, Methodist and St. John Lutheran. If the community quilters had a motto for their work it could be “Together We Can Help.” “As long as someone receives the simple joy of comfort and warmth, that’s the satisfaction we get from doing this,” Kortz commented. “And it’s good to know we live in a state where quilts are especially needed when the cold weather arrives.” added Schmidt.

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