MHY Quilting Lets Kids Know They Are Loved
MHY Quilting is among Dutilh Church’s most active ministry teams, but many people do not realize the hours of work that happen behind the scenes to produce the amazing quilts that appear in the sanctuary each year to be blessed and then shared with young people at the Mars Home for Youth (MHY).
The ministry began in 2011 when then-pastor Debbie Peyser learned that the MHY had a need for bedding. Pastor Debbie, Louise Warner, and Cathy Mahoney decided they could do something about that need, and MHY Quilting was born.
Warner and Mahoney wanted to make the ministry accessible to as many people as possible, including those who were not necessarily skilled seamstresses. Warner, Mahoney, and a handful of volunteers prepared quilting kits, complete with pre-cut fabric squares and patterns for assembly.
Volunteers need to have access to a sewing machine and to possess basic sewing skills. That first year, Warner and her team prepared 20 kits and created some mystery-themed sewing parties where volunteers could gather to work on their quilting projects and solve clues to figure out the next piece of their patterns. Warner even dressed up as an inspector, offering M&Ms as rewards when anyone solved a clue.
While the themed sewing parties have fallen by the wayside, MHY Quilting is going strong.
“We have 42 kits out right now,” Warner said. Members of the Dutilh family are sewing many of those kits. The youngest volunteer is an 11-year-old and some are friends of Warner’s who she knows through other quilting activities and recruited to help.
Members of a quilting group from Sherwood Oaks Retirement Community wanted to get involved, so Warner met with them to explain the ministry. They are currently working on original quilts (no kits) to be delivered to MHY through Dutilh’s ministry team.
Warner welcomes anyone interested and will use whatever talents people bring. While most of the work happens independently, many individuals bring their quilting kits to work on during the Quilt & More social gatherings at Dutilh on the fourth Monday of each month. Warner also schedules some Friday evening sewing parties at the church for a few weeks after the kits are distributed. Interested volunteers who do not sew contribute by ironing, providing batting, or making financial donations to purchase fabric or batting.
Creating the top layer of the quilt is called “piecing”; once that part is completed, volunteers are asked to purchase the batting—sized for a twin bed—and to provide the batting along with the top layer of the quilt to Warner.
“Most people don’t know that Bud actually does the quilting,” Warner said. A finished quilt is comprised of the top layer, the batting, and a solid fabric backing. Assembling the quilt requires a long arm quilting machine or a standard home sewing machine. While a few quilters finish their own quilts, Warner’s husband Bud completes the majority of projects. A single, twin-bed-sized quilt takes about two days to finish. Bud typically does about 40 of them, working the MHY Quilting projects in between various paid projects he also handles.
Warner explained that she handles the artistic side of choosing patterns, fabrics, and assembling the kits. Bud—who served all over the world in the Air Force for 20 years as a computer programmer—programs the computerized long-arm machine and then feeds the quilt through the machine, stopping every 18 inches or so to adjust the quilt.
The entire project is a labor of love.
“We have lots of volunteers who cut fabric and assemble the kits” Warner explained. “And everyone is welcome.”
MHY Quilting is a perfect example of how the Dutilh community lives out its mission to love God, love others, and love to serve, Warner said.
“We put a label on the back of every quilt,” Warner said. “It says, ‘Made for you with love by Dutilh United Methodist Church.’ It’s so rewarding to see the kids get their quilts.” Indeed, Warner said one of the most rewarding parts of this ministry is when she and a small team from MHY Quilting gather up the finished quilts and take them to MHY. The young people are able to select their favorite quilt and to keep they one they choose as their own.
Pastor Tom Parkinson explained, “Going to MHY with the quilters to distribute these quilts is one of the highlights of the year. To see the joy and appreciation of the children, some of whom came to MHY with only the clothes on their backs, is a holy moment. Just as these quilts will envelope these children, my prayer is that they will feel God enveloping them and holding them secure as they experience healing and hope at MHY.”
Those experiences with the young people have had a similar effect on Warner.
“One young woman named Faith was eyeing a pink quilt when we walked in,” Warner recalled. “She chose it right away and then approached one member of our group to ask how she should take care of it. Amy Smith [of MHY] told us that when the Faith’s social worker came to visit, it was the first thing Faith showed her. And it was the first thing she packed when it was time for her to leave.”
Another boy, after choosing his quilt, immediately wrapped himself up in it and started snuggling, Warner said.
“We get lots of thank you notes from the kids,” Warner said. She saves all of them.
Warner said the Dutilh community may not realize how many people from across the church are involved in the MHY Quilting Ministry. The Flea Market team uses some of its proceeds to make a monetary donation to MHY Quilting each year, and individuals often make financial gifts to purchase fabric or other supplies. Anyone who wishes to get involved in MHY Quilting to help cut, iron, work on a quilting kit, or donate batting may contact Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-869-0870.