Church women send fabric hugs around the world

story tease

inline tease photo

Working on a quilt at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Canfield are from left: Barb Loitwood, Diana Williams, Doris Puerner and Mary Lou Drotleff. The group makes about 75 quilts per year and donates them to a world-relief organization.



A small group of women at Lord of Life Lutheran Church sends hugs made of fabric to comfort people around the world.

The knit and quilt group is motivated by the theme, “God’s Work ... Our Hands,” in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Last year, they made 75 quilts for Lutheran World Relief. Their quilts are wrapped around children or serving as a shelter in such places as Haiti, Nigeria, the Philippines, Angola and Tanzania. In fact, LWR sent 36,000 quilts to the Philippines and 49,000 to Tanzania. The quilts give comfort to refugees and victims of disasters. Last year, some quilts went to American victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The goal in 2013 was 500,000 quilts. The Lord of Life ladies are waiting to hear if that number was met.

Recently, Diana Williams, Barb Loitwood, Doris Puerner and Mary Lou Drotleff, church secretary, worked on quilts. The group meets at 1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the church, 550 N. Broad St.

In 2005, Williams said the group began knitting prayer shawls for ill church members and baby afghans for newborns in the congregation. About 10 items for that project are made annually.

Shortly after the knitting began, Drotleff said a church member involved in Women of ELCA suggested making quilts for LWR.

“Our goal is 60 to 75 quilts from October to October,” Williams said. She continued that every October, churches around the country send or deliver their quilts to a warehouse in New Windsor, Md., near Baltimore, operated by the Church of the Brethren. From there, the quilts are dispersed around the globe.

Drotleff called Williams “the great guru” of the quilts, the one who keeps things moving forward.

“If you can lean over the table and tie a knot, you can help,” Drotleff said. Volunteers don’t have to know how to quilt; wanting to contribute is the key requirement.

“These are tie quilts and are extremely simple to make. They’re warm and sturdy,” Williams said.

“These aren’t fair-quality quilts. They are utilitarian quilts,” Williams said. But, she noted, the comfort and warmth the quilts provide and knowledge someone a world away cares is priceless.

The quilts the women make are a standard size of 60 by 80 inches when finished. The women don’t do all the work at the church; they cut quilt squares at home and do the finishing work as well. The quilts are basically three pieces — the backing, the bonding or filler and top piece. “It’s like a fabric sandwich,” Williams said.

Loitwood admitted she liked “to coordinate colors.” But, she noted, “some of the prettiest are the ones that are a mish-mash of colors and patterns.”

Drotleff said in addition to the women who help at the church, a church member who is a resident at Humility House in Austintown, an assisted living and nursing home, helps work on the quilts. She and a couple other Humility House residents tie the quilts that have been pinned together by women at the church.

For the church ladies, it’s a labor of love. “It’s nice to know you’re helping someone who really needs it,” Drotleff said.

Loitwood added, “You know the quilts are really needed and are keeping someone warm.”

Williams, who has traveled to Africa, said the experience brought home the need. “It feels good to do something to help someone,” she said.

“It’s our opportunity to help people around the world,” Puerner said.

All said their faith motivated them to be involved. “It’s what we’re called to do,” Drotleff said.

The project accepts donations of clean material of all colors and most patterns. To donate, call the church at 330-533-3531.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.