by Dennis Dalman
Ardelle Amundson loves to get “thank-you” notes, especially from children.
One of them said, in a childish scrawl, “Thank you for giving my mom and I a quilt. It’s really nice and warm.” – Marcus.
Another one said, “Thanks for the quilt. Now I don’t have to share with my mom.”
Amundson, a Sartell resident, is a founding member of the Rice Area Mission Quilters, a group of about a dozen women who have made and donated thousands of quilts to people who are down on their luck. People receive the handmade quilts at about two dozen places in central Minnesota, including the Veterans Administration hospital, battered-women shelters, nursing homes, schools, food shelves, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities.
Amundson and the other quilters frequently receive so many grateful notes from quilt recipients they know they are on the right track on what Amundson calls “God’s project.” Some recipients had never owned a quilt in their lives. Quilts, Amundson well knows, can help people feel warm, happy and comforted.
The Rice Area Mission Quilters was formed in May 2002.
Amundson vividly remembers how the group so badly wanted a certain kind of sewing machine, they prayed for one. What they needed for their work was a machine that could sew straight and zig-zag stitches and one that could handle heavy fabrics. One day, Amundson came home from work and noticed there were some items marked “Free” in a neighbor woman’s yard. One of the items, as if God had truly answered the ladies’ prayer, was a Kenmore sewing machine – exactly the kind the ladies had hoped – and prayed – for.
God, working in mysterious ways, seems to have provided for the quilters ever since those founding days. Donations of material and other items seem to pop up out of nowhere, as do contributions of money and materials from churches, organizations and individuals.
And it takes a lot of materials to make possible the quilters’ work. Last year, they made and donated 1,800 quilts, 836 pillowcases and 420 potholders to low-income families through the many various area agencies. This year, they’re on track to do the same.
The women meet two Thursdays each month at Shepherd of the Pines Church in Rice. Groups of women pin and tie the quilts on large frames. They are then taken across the hall into the jam-packed storage and sewing where Evelyn Kirchner, master sewer, sews the hems. She can sew a quilt in lickety-split time, about 15 minutes. She also sews all the other items the group makes. Some, like potholders, are sold to make money for quilting materials, but most are donated to people in need.
The women are quick to give others credit. There are many who help with the projects, including some people who work from home. The quilters’ husbands gladly volunteer to load the quilts into vehicles and deliver them to where they are needed. It is, Amundson said, a labor of love by so many people.
The energy and enthusiasm of the group can quickly convince people into wanting to be part of the projects. For example, Breanna Motshke of Rice is a student studying psychology at St. Cloud State University who took a class based on volunteer work. Aware the quilters needed help, she agreed to spend hours with them, helping them tie and pin quilts at the church. Her boyfriend, John Borash, decided to come along and help out, too.
Quiltmaking is anything but drudgery, Amundson said. The members have a ball when they’re putting quilts together as jokes and wisecracks tend to zing back and forth. At a recent quilting session, they enjoyed telling a story about just how dedicated quilters can become. The husband of a woman in Little Falls was not very happy about how much money his wife was spending on quilting supplies. Finally, the conflict came to an end when he agreed he’d let her spend as much as she wanted on quilting fabrics as long as he could continue to spend as much as he likes on hunting. Heckuva deal.
The Rice Area Mission Quilters are always seeking volunteers, who can spend as much or as little time as they want. Sewing is not a requirement. Call Amundson at 320-656-5858 or Cherie Ablan at 320-393-4164.
Supplies are always welcome, including fabric, yarn, thread, polyester batting, sheets, pillowcases, towels, drapes, mattress pads and blankets (often used for the inside filler of the quilts). Those items can be brought to Shepherd of the Pines church, or arrangements can be made to have them picked up. Call Amundson at 320-656-5858.