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News / Clark County News

Made with love for those in need: Quilters are happy to give their creations to Clark County shelters

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 11, 2023, 6:05am
6 Photos
Carol Burbridge, Judy Blevens and Joyce Harms work on a quilt in a back room at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Vancouver.
Carol Burbridge, Judy Blevens and Joyce Harms work on a quilt in a back room at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Vancouver. (Photos by James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

For many, the start of fall means the crunching of leaves underfoot and a damp smell in the air. It’s a sign for people to start collecting pumpkin decorations and grabbing a jacket on the way out the door.

But for quilting groups in Clark County, the start of fall signifies that it’s time to get to work again.

The weather will soon turn chilly, and people living on the streets and in shelters will need the blankets that the quilters so carefully sew year after year, decade after decade.

In the back room of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Vancouver, four women — all retired — sit at different corners of a 7-foot arrangement of pink and lilac patterned squares, pushing yarn through them to tag the sides together with practiced movements. Another woman sits at a sewing machine in the corner, joining the edges of two finished quilt sides.

YOU CAN HELP

St. Andrew Lutheran Church accepts new or gently used sheets for quilting at 5607 N.E. Gher Road, Vancouver.

They look up occasionally at the children from the church’s preschool playing outside the window. A young boy rolls a tire across the grass, chasing after it with others in tow.

While stitching, the women chat about everything from the weather to their grandchildren.

“Most of us are introverts, and so we’re happy to sit in our sewing room at home and do some steps by ourselves, but everybody needs some social activity,” said Carol Burbridge, who has been quilting with the group for 23 years.

Each quilt takes six to eight hours to complete from start to finish, she said. Last year, the group produced 153 quilts. Although the church’s website says over 2,000 quilts have been distributed since 2006, the quilters argue that the practice is as old as the Vancouver church itself, which held its first service in 1971.

Twice a year, they gather the quilts they’ve made so far and deliver them to Open House Ministries and Share, but not before proudly displaying the multi-colored blankets on the church’s pews for a photo.

“It’s a really rewarding way to have fun,” Burbridge said.

It’s an activity done by many churches during cold months, including Bethel Lutheran Church in Brush Prairie, which has also donated thousands of quilts to local homeless shelters over the decades.

Jessica Lightheart, community relations director for Share, said in an emailed statement that Bethel Lutheran Church and St. Andrew Lutheran Church have been longtime quilt donors. The quilts make beds in its shelters welcoming and brighten the homes of people moving into new housing, she said.

“Beyond the warmth they provide, parents, and especially children, appreciate the beauty of the colors and patterns, and they become treasured family heirlooms and truly make a house a home,” Lightheart said.

Peg Petshow said knowing where the quilts end up makes her feel good about the work she does with the group.

She recalled seeing someone at a bus stop on her way to church cloaked in a familiar quilt.

“I can’t tell you each quilt that I made, but I recognized that one,” she said with a smile. “I tell that story quite often.”

Renée Stevens, executive director of Open House Ministries, said in an emailed statement that she appreciates the love and support of the quilters.

“These thoughtful gifts serve as a great reminder of how much people in our community care about our families in need,” she said.

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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