Quilts, prayers warm hearts at Christmas

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

Monday’s blustery wind made the 30-degree day feel like a frigid 19 degrees, but Laurie Allen and Amanda Gittinger were delivering a gift of warmth to long-term care residents of Hays,

The two women, members of the Celebration Community Church's quilting ministry, were bringing 140 quilts to the city’s two long-term facilities — free gifts for the residents at Christmastime.

The quilts were sewn and donated by the Celebration Community Church’s Prayers and Squares Quilting Ministry.

The group celebrated 10 years of giving away quilts to people in the community earlier this year, right before the pandemic started in March.

Amanda Gittinger, left, and Laurie Allen deliver quilts to Via Christi Village in Hays, a gift to the long-term care residents from the quilting ministry at Celebration Community Church.

As much as the ministry benefits those who get the free gift of a quilt, it also touches the members.

 “We’re very much a family group,” said Allen.

“We all just feel like we’re one big family of sisters,” Gittinger piped up.

“We pray for each other, and if you’re having an issue or problem you can go to anybody and just know that they love you and are going to pray for you. We just help each other get through things, a lot of hard things, and we have good times and we have bad. We have a lot of fun and laughter too.”

Amanda Gittinger, left, and Laurie Allen visit in Amanda's home about a prayer quilt made by the Celebration Community Church quilting ministry.

Gittinger’s mother Marilyn drives from Goodland every month to participate, and Allen’s daughter, Jessica Wright, occasionally drives out from Manhattan. Thirteen members come on a regular basis. That includes two high school girls, Emily and Grace McCord.

The group meets the second Friday and Saturday of every month, starting around 9 a.m. on Friday and sewing until they get tired, Gittinger said. On Saturday they start sewing around 9:30 a.m. and end around 4 p.m.

During the meeting, they cut out fabric and piece quilt tops. Allen and some other members later long-arm machine quilt the tops.

The quilters make prayer quilts for people who are sick, sad, struggling, having surgery. A quilt can be requested by anyone, church member or not.

“Our ministry prays over the quilt, and we pass it along to our pastors and staff at the church” Gittinger said. “And then they pray over the quilt, and then it’s gifted to the person.”

They also make patriotic quilts, which go to military veterans around the nation suffering from PTSD and in counseling with Teresa Boos, a member of Celebration Church.

Then there are the baby quilts, which go to Hope’s Place, Goodland, for pregnant women in need of support.

This is the first time the group has made quilts for the residents of the long-term care facilities in Hays. The idea started from donated Christmas fabric the quilters wanted to make use of.

The quilters made the 140 quilts in a month and a half.

“We have fantastic members,” Gittinger said. “Anytime anybody has something they want to do project-wise, everybody just jumps on board.”

With this project accomplished, Gittinger said they’ll focus on patriotic quilts next.

With churches closed off-and-on through COVID-19, there’s been less demand for prayer quilts. There’s also a bunch of baby quilts.

“When we’re quarantined, or we’re at home, we’re not going to sit, so we have, I betcha, at least 50 prayer quilts, just extra right now, which is beautiful,” Allen said. “Because we’re usually like, ‘Ok, we need quilts, we need quilts.’ So that’s why we’re working on the patriotic right now.”

They are also working on a quilt challenge with a variety of fabric given luck of the draw to each member, who then chooses a design and assembles a prayer quilt.

“When we get done, we hang them all together, and it’s fun to see all the different designs and how people used them,” Allen said. “It’s fun.”

The members also hold a four-day retreat each year to get away, where they choose a location offsite for fun, reconnecting and fellowship. There are quilt-themed games, quilt door prizes, and working on any craft or project of a member’s choice, quilting or not.

Newcomers to the quilting group are always welcome, the women said.

“And you don’t have to know how to sew well,” Gittinger said. “We would be willing to teach anybody that would be willing to come and join us.”

“When Amanda started out, she didn’t sew at all,” Allen recalled. “She started out putting the ties in the quilts. She’s one of our better sewers now.”

They have extra machines at the church for members to use.

“We have everything you need,” Allen said. “You just show up and say ‘I want to be a part of this.’ And you do not have to belong to Celebration. You do not have to belong to any church. We encourage everybody and anybody.”

Some come who aren’t even quilters, just to be part of the fellowship, Gittinger said.

She remembers when she started with the group.

“I was scared to death of touching the machine and putting a quilt together,” Gittinger said. “And then I put my first quilt together and I just got the bug. This has become like a passion of mine. I just love to be in this ministry. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus … For me it’s just an honor to be part of this group.”

It’s satisfying to receive thank you cards from those who receive the gift of a quilt.

“We see just how touched they are, that somebody that doesn’t even know them would take time to make something so comforting,” Allen said. “Who doesn’t love to wrap up in a quilt? …I feel like God gives us talents, and this is my talent and I feel happy and joyful when I’m sewing.”

Anyone wishing to join the group can contact the church at 785-625-5483 to reach Gittinger. Other members include Abigail Crandall, Cathy McMillin, Amanda McCord, Jan North, Karen Wallgren, Karyl Ferguson, Kim Terrell, Patty Legleiter, Sandy Bangle and Vera Haver.

“It’s important for people to know there are people praying for them, and do care about them,” Allen said. “We definitely try to support our community.”