COLUMBIA — Boxes of handmade, colorful quilts, school kits and personal care kits were packed on a truck outside St. Andrew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on Saturday morning.
They will be sent to St. Louis, then to Baltimore and then to people in need all around the world.
St. Andrew’s took part in Lutheran World Relief, a program that aims to end poverty, injustice and human suffering, by preparing and collecting the items. The church serves as a gathering site for the other 13 churches in mid-Missouri collecting donations.
Last year the program was able to send $11.8 million worth of quilts and kits to 24 different countries. This year the kits and quilts sent out from St. Andrew’s might end up at a Philippines warehouse to be distributed in that part of the world.
“These items that Lutheran World Relief makes and collects across the United States just really make a difference to the people in need because they know it’s not like somebody just giving them money,” said Karon Speckman, the organizer of the church program. “They are getting something that somebody is putting together with love and concern.”
A quilting group with about six members met twice a month during the past year to prepare the quilt donations. This year they made 40 quilts.
“We tried to make 50 (quilts), but we had a couple of months when the weather was so bad that we didn’t meet,” said June Hughes, the founder of the group who started the program at St. Andrew's four years ago.
On the second and fourth Friday morning every month, June Hughes and Pat Luedders designed and made the quilt tops from all the material that people had donated. Other women tied the tops, bedding and back part together, and Hughes sewed the outside edging on it.
The twice monthly quilting gathering was like a social hour for the women. They sat together in the room and talked while doing the needlework.
“All the people I quilt with know my children and grandchildren by their first name,” Hughes said.
They shared a lot when they were together and affirmed their evangelical faith by “giving” of themselves.
“We are solving world problems as well as our family problems when we are quilting,” Annette Molitor said with a laugh.
They also discussed what kind of quilts they wanted to sew. This year they said they were trying to make more masculine quilts because they realized that most of the quilts they have sewn in the past were feminine colors or had flowers on them.
Although they do not know who will receive their work, they are often inspired by the stories the national Lutheran World Relief organizations tell them about these people.
Hughes told a story about a widow in Africa who received one of their quilts. One night when the woman's house caught on fire, she only had time to save one quilt. She cut the quilt in half and made a dress with one half and kept the other part to cover herself for the rest of the night.
"We know how much they are valued by people," said Paula Schmitz, who joined the group this year. "I think we just all feel that you can't go there and help anybody individually, but you can do it here and send it there."
Another group, called St. Andrew's Stitchers, sewed the school bags for the school kits that included notebooks, rulers and pencil sharpeners. Hughes, also in this group, said they tried to sew a new style of drawstring backpacks this year for the first time.
Other people in the church collected school kits, baby care kits and personal care kits, which included towels, soaps and toothbrushes among other things. St. Andrew's has sent 73 school kits, 27 personal care kits, 4 fabric kits and 43 baby care kits this year.
Putting the kits together and shipping them overseas can be expensive. People who donate the kits watch for sales, and those who don't sew or cannot be part of the kit-making project can donate money to the Quilt and Kit Shipping Fund.
“Jesus told us that we should help people who are hungry, help people who are in need and help people who need clothing,” Speckman said. “And this is one way that we can do that.”