“There is, indeed, a transforming moment when a quilt passes from our hands into another’s, and they embrace it.” – Kirk Betts, former chairman of the Lutheran World Relief Board of Directors, upon distributing Lutheran World Relief Quilts in Niger.
There is nothing more comforting than to feel the warmth and love of being wrapped in a blanket. And when you know that each stitch has been made with love and compassion, it makes it even more special. For those halfway around the world who have little or nothing to call their own, a simple quilt can provide them with a gift that everyone deserves—a gift of hope.
Since the early 1970s, Trinity Lutheran Church in Bonners Ferry has been home to a quilting group that has made thousands of quilts and sent them overseas for those less fortunate.
The group meets every Wednesday at the church from 9am to noon. “We regularly have six to eight men and women,” said Kathryn Braatz, a member of the group. “And we have about six others who come on occasion.”
While Kathryn said she doesn’t know exactly how the group started, she said the current members suspect it was from a desire to make something special for people across the globe who are not as fortunate as they are.
Most of the quilts are sent to Third-World countries as well as disaster areas abroad and at home through Lutheran World Relief. The only time this particular group sent quilts to those in the U.S. was after Hurricane Katrina, otherwise almost all have been sent overseas.
A very special way the quilters group supports those in the community is by presenting each graduating senior in their congregation with a quilt every spring.
“The only feedback we have ever gotten from recipients are the high school kids,” said Kathryn. “And they just love the quilts!”
Jillian Anderson Morton received her senior quilt in 2007. It is something that she cherishes to this day.
“It followed me through nursing school and is still treasured in the household I’ve built with my husband,” said Jillian. “I love the quilt because it reminds me of the hands that made it; people of my hometown church family, my own beloved grandfather included. It’s a cozy reminder of the hands that reared me, loved me and set the foundation of my continued spiritual walk. Much love to my church family at Trinity Lutheran Church.”
The quilts are all 60-by-80 inches, a guideline set by Lutheran World Relief, as it best serves both adults and children as they grow older. The members of the group perform much of the work at home. Three people in the group work independently at home making the tops and backs, spending as much as 20-plus hours each week designing and sewing the quilts.
It is a labor of love, and in the nearly 50 years Trinity Lutheran Church’s quilters have been doing this, there have been thousands of quilts made and donated. “Each year we make up to 400, and one year it was 500,” said Kathryn.
Much of what the group does could not be accomplished without the support of others.
There is a special fund that many of the members of the congregation donate to. Those funds are used only for the batting and the cost of shipping. “The fabric used for the top and backs is all donated. We never run out. People are most generous,” said Kathryn.
There is more than just the satisfaction of helping others that is a result of the time these women and men spend together. There are friendships that form, too.
“We are hard workers who enjoy each other’s company,” said Kathryn.
While their craft room is full of supplies, the group is always in need of monetary donations to assist with the cost of batting and shipping.
The quilts are just one of many things that Lutheran World Relief does. The nonprofit organization assists families who live in the world’s poorest communities to help build the resilience they need to thrive. Their impact is powerful, and the many people they reach is impressive. In 2016, they reached 3,467,823 people in 32 countries throughout the world.
One of their projects is called Project Promise. Groups build what are called “Kits of Care,” turning ordinary items into extraordinary gifts. There are different types of kits including personal-care kits, school kits, baby-care kits and fabric kits. Once items are gathered and money is raised to help ship kits overseas, the items are packed and sent to a warehouse in the United States. The Kits of Care have been used to help people in the aftermath of natural disasters or those fleeing home to escape violence, as well as people living in extreme poverty.
Whether you desire to donate locally to the quilting group at Trinity Lutheran Church or directly to Lutheran World Relief, know that your donation is making a difference in the lives of others. A heartfelt thank you to those at Trinity Lutheran Church for sending not only the gift of a warm quilt but the gift of hope as well.