Missouri group quilts donated fabric to warm the homeless

Friday, January 1, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:38 a.m. CST, Friday, January 1, 2010

SIKESTON — Quilters have found another way to turn one man's trash into treasure.

For years, a group of women in Cape Girardeau has worked to construct "ugly quilts" or sleeping bags for the homeless and needy using worn, donated fabrics. And now members of the Bootheel Quilter's Guild, based in Sikeston, have joined the effort.

"This is something we heard about, and thought we would like to help do," said Alice Happe, a group member who recently sat in on the action at the St. Vincent de Paul Church in Cape Girardeau.

Member Darlene DeLong said she's taken scrap material to the Cape Girardeau group, My Brother's Keeper Quilt Group, for years. But when she read in a church bulletin they needed help assembling the quilts, she brought the idea to the guild.

"Five total members went, and we just had so much fun," said DeLong. "We all felt good when we left." Now, group members have begun making their own "ugly quilts" and they plan to add it to the list of outreach projects in which the guild already participates. Group members also have expressed an interest in attending other work days in the future.

While guild members said they are happy to provide the talent needed to make the bags, they need help from the community to provide all the materials. The sleeping bags are made entirely from clean used or no-cost fabrics. Measuring 84- by 84-inches fabrics can be old blankets, sheets, bedspreads and mattress pads. The quilts are dubbed "ugly quilts" because of the odd fabric used to make them, explained Happe.

"We're always looking for any fabric donations, so we can make the quilts," said Happe. She said the project provides a way for individuals to discardold, tattered fabric.

"It's not something you have to go out and buy," said Happe. "While (the fabric) is something a lot of people discard, we're actually able to do something with it."

DeLong added: "It's a good way to help people with something you're not going to use anyway. With this, you can turn your throwaways into something good and help others."

She and Happe said donations of clean fabric of any size is accepted, even some clothing items can be used. Sometimes, they'll keep smaller swatches to make baby quilts, which guild members then donate to Birthright.

In addition to fabric, the group is also asking for donations of neck ties. "Two neck ties are sewn on the bag so the recipient can roll it up and take it wherever they go," explained Happe.

Each quilt also contains a gift bag with toiletries, which is rolled up with the quilt, and a message of hope and prayer, said Happe. She said any donations to fill the bags are also accepted.

"I just want to work on this all year, because it's such a good thing," said Happe.

All quilts that are made are then given to the Cape Girardeau club, which distributes the quilts at homeless shelters and other areas where needed. The ugly quilts made here are given out in areas between St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., with southeast Missouri being the first priority, according to Happe.

"Our only purpose is to help the homeless be warm until they can be helped or healed by others in our society," said Happe.

And with the economy in its current state, homelessness is a problem that seems to be snowballing, said DeLong. "There are a lot of people out of work," she said. "Soon after they lose their job, they don't have money to pay rent and then their out on the streets without a place to live."

DeLong said the quilts fill a basic need for those individuals who are down and out. Making them is something easy she can do to help out.

Happe agreed. "I feel good about myself by making these," she said. "And it's an easy gift not something someone has to go out and buy, but something they likely have in their home and aren't using."

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