Hope’s History of Spreading Love and Warmth through Quilting

by Lora DeWald  

The women of Hope Lutheran have participated in the quilting project for longer than anyone can really remember.

Evelyn Nelson seems to have been the first person to invite the women into the basement of her home where the first quilts were assembled using whatever fabric scraps, old clothing, sheets and blankets that were available.  Scissors and rulers were used to cut squares that were sewn together to make quilt tops.  Left over scraps of fabric were used for the middle layer and old blankets and sheets were used for the back.  These three layers were tied together with yarn and the three layers were sewn around the edge to secure the layers and serve as a warm and sturdy shelter from the cold.

Evelyn VerWey had a beauty shop in the basement of her home while her children were little and she eventually invited the group to use part of her basement to continue the project and so she would be able to enjoy her friends while she worked. There really was no scheduled time and the women gathered for sewing and fellowship as they were able.

In the early 60’s the women of the church grouped into circles and it was decided that more women could participate if they met at the church.  The circles accepted different projects and eventually Ruth circle became responsible for quilting. The project became a bit more organized under the direction of Evelyn VerWey and Tuesdays became quilting day.  Throughout the years, with the exception of Tuesdays during July and August, you would find 6-10 women tying quilts at the church.

As the uses of the church building changed it became difficult to cut and sew at the church, so numerous women took fabric home where they made tops that were brought back and the middle layer and back were added and tied. These unfinished quilts were then taken back home to be sewed together and finished by Evelyn VerWey, Joyce Lerdal, Shirley Hawks, Cleo Sorensen, with some fill-in by Lora DeWald and others completed this monumental task since the quilts were returned to the church where they were stored, blessed at the annual blessing and eventually distributed. It takes at least 10 hours to make one quilt.

Lora DeWald agreed to take over Evelyn’s responsibility in 2006 leaving Evelyn and John to concentrate on making quilt tops which they continued until they moved into a retirement home. With no assigned space for quilting it became necessary to either discontinue the project or find an assigned space.

In the middle 2000’s there was a reduced need for a nursery which opened that room and the quilters and crafters finally had a home. Cupboards and shelves were installed and the current space has been the “Quilting Room” since. With the designated space the women were able to accept more donated fabric and the cupboards quickly filled with “fabric from grandma’s house,”  and what has come to be called “boxes of good intentions.” WELCA  purchased batting, and Avera McKennan and the Holiday Inn supplied 100’s of blankets for middle layers and Thrivent Action Grants provided funds for 100’s of flannel backs.

Throughout the years there have been many, many who have contributed to the quilting project by purchasing supplies, cutting, sewing, hauling finished quilts to Parker Storage for overseas shipment to Lutheran World Relief (LWR) and community locations, and so many more ways that they  have contributed  and, indeed, were  “quilters”  in their own way.

In addition to those already mentioned special mention must be made of Regina Bueber (Rita Korbel’s mom) who, over 5 years, sewed more than 500 quilt tops. Helen Engen, the piece cutter,
EXTRAORDINAIRE; there are 154 pieces in every quilt. So, counting only the squares used by Regina to make the 500 tops, that is 77,000 squares. Sally Miller, a new member of Hope, used the COVID year to make at least 15 quilts. Donna Hawks made more than her fair share of tops, and Joyce Lerdal continued to make tops long after she and Richard could no longer haul quilts home to finish. There really are no designated years of service counted but it should be mentioned that Donna Hawks, Helen Engen, Elaine Wipf, and Ruth Hoiten, who are still with us, certainly count.  We will remember always the faithful who started and kept us going.

It is a very conservative estimate to say that at least 100 quilts a year have been distributed since this project began more than 60 years ago.

Truly I tell you whatever you did for the least of these of these brothers and sisters you did for me. 
Matthew 25:40