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Voyageur's Best Features of 2003

Quilts and Quarters

Quilts & Quarters
All for a worthy cause
by Cynthia Brekke  |  April 22, 2003

Quilting is good for the soul... at least that’s how the average, avid quilter feels. Some use it as a stress reliever, others as an expression of friendship, as they gift their wonderful creations to others. Why, quilts have even been in the Olympics... ever heard of the Olympic Quilts? The quilting guild in Atlanta, over a span of three years, completed 400 quilts to honor the athletes of the 1996 Summer Games. The quilters became involved the day Atlanta was chosen for the Summer Olympic games. There was a catch, however: they couldn’t use the Olympic torch or rings in the designs and the quilts had to measure 54” x 70”. They were gifted to the countries on opening day.

Quilts are also used to further worthy causes, besides being a gesture of friendship. World hunger is the purpose behind quilts being created by the area Evangelical Lutheran Churches (ELCA), part of the Northeast MN Synod. Local ladies have been busy patching together quilts for the Synod’s annual assembly, which will be held May 2-4 at Cragun’s Conference Center, north of Brainerd. Quilts created will be the focus of a silent auction on Fri. evening and all day Sat., May 3-4, with proceeds to go to the ELCA’s World Hunger Appeal Program. This is the avenue the ELCA uses to address chronic hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

One such quilter is a 90-year old resident from Cromwell. Julia Beckman turned 90 on Feb. 16, and is actively involved in the quilting for her church, Bethany Lutheran. Julia moved to Eagle Lake, south of Cromwell, as a 21-year old bride and has been there ever since. She still resides in the original homestead, and a former resident of Eagle Lake wrote her recently, for her birthday. “He thought all the people (he knew of) on the lake were dead, that’s how long I’ve been there,” Julia explained. “I think I’m the only old-timer left there.” In this letter, the man sent a picture of himself, as a child, in a boat, with bottles of milk.

“He used to row across Eagle Lake and he’d have all these bottles filled with milk, and bring them to the neighbors,” added Julia’s friend, Lois Jobe. The man had asked, in his letter, what happened to the little, blonde-haired kid that used to live there... it was Julia’s daughter, Kathleen Mowers, who lives on Eagle Lake also.

In the area of quilting, Julia has never made two quilts alike. Her patterns are all original, and she doesn’t use squares, yet her quilts come together beautifully. She just starts in the middle and goes around until she’s done. As she worked, she shared a bit more about her life. Her mother lived 103 years, and she has four siblings, all of them in their 90’s. For Julia, the only downfall to living so long has been seeing friends die. What does she attribute her longevity to? “I have such a good outlook,” she said. “I never have a bad day. I keep myself busy.”

She also referred to her birth year, 1913. “I think I’ve had a lucky number,” Julia added.

Not all of the quilts made by the ELCA in Cromwell are sent to the Assembly auction. Some of them stay local, for fire victims or people who simply need them, while others go to a crisis center in Cloquet. Many, however, are shipped to 20 different countries around the world. It’s all part of the outreach of the church, but especially, the women of the church. “We’ve put together 260 quilts,” Lois explained. “We started on Sept. 12 and have worked through Mar. 20.”

Meanwhile, north of McGregor, the Grace Lutheran quilters are also busy preparing for the quilt auction at Cragun’s. Joan Langsdorf and her husband, Bill, are the delegates from Grace Lutheran and Joan is the senior quilter of the group at a tender age of 57. “I’ve made one quilt and a wall hanging,” she said. The church will be sending a total of five quilted pieces to the auction. “Last year, we weren’t prepared,” Joan explained. “But we are this year. We have a bid on one quilt of $200 already.”

The Grace quilts are on display in the fellowship hall at the church, so that people can bid on them. “If the bid from here is higher than any bids over at Cragun’s, we’ll simply bring it back,” she stated. This gives people who may not be attending the assembly a chance to bid.

Joan commented that the quilts are mostly machine sewn, and only one item, a wall hanging, is hand quilted, but none are hand tied. The difference is in durability. Machine-sewn quilts tend to hold up a little better. As for the material, Joan said the Grace quilts were made with all new material, none donated.

The Quilts and Quarters program brought in over $40,000 in 2002, and the ELCA has set a goal of $45,000 for 2003. The theme this year is ‘Trip around the World’. When delegates from the various churches arrive at Cragun’s Centre, the quilts will be displayed on upper railings around the room. Bidding on them will begin Fri., May 3, from 6-9 p.m., and continue Sat., from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. All proceeds from this goes directly into the ELCA’s World Hunger Program. Most of the 148 churches in the expansive, Northeastern MN Synod participate in Quilts and Quarters.

The quarters portion of this is as interesting as the quilts. Tamarack resident, Ken Peterson, has been in on the ground floor of the project, which has been very successful over the years. The whole idea behind these fund raisers was to increase interest and awareness of hunger issues and raise funds necessary to combat the problem. This fits right in with the Synod’s mission statement: ‘The purpose of our synod is to nurture a Christ-centered climate, conductive to healthy, mission-focused congregations, and their ministries throughout the world.’

This article first appeared in the April 22, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.