Local group helping in unique way

Judy Turgeson (left) and Anita Prout begin to pack the quilts that will be sent to a church in Afghanistan. The women are members of the St. Peter Lutheran Ladies Quilt Group.
Judy Turgeson (left) and Anita Prout begin to pack the quilts that will be sent to a church in Afghanistan. The women are members of the St. Peter Lutheran Ladies Quilt Group. Photo by Matt Murphy.

A group of women at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Huntington are helping out with the reconstruction of Afghanistan - in a unique way.

The St. Peter Lutheran Ladies' Quilt Group is sending a shipment of bed-size and baby quilts directly to a mission in the war-torn country.

"It's not every day that you get to send something directly to Afghanistan," says Judy Turgeson, one of the group's leaders.

A Lutheran chaplain of an Afghan parish requested the quilts to give out to residents of the town where the mission is located. Turgeson says that the chaplain wanted to use the quilts as a token of goodwill to the community. In addition, the group thought it was a good idea, because they would know exactly how and for what their work is being used.

"We would like to see something directly go there," Turgeson says.

Because the women are sending their handiwork directly to a high-need area, it is a bit different than the typical routine.

Usually, the group stitches about 50 quilts per year, says Anita Prout, another group member. Those quilts are delivered in October to Lutheran World Relief in Fort Wayne, which arranges for the quilts to be sent to third-world countries.

The quilt group has been repeating this compassionate routine each year for nearly 10 years, but it all started with a vision had by Turgeson.

"My mother used to be in a similar group," says Turgeson, "and I thought, ‘We need to do something like that again.'"

Turgeson contacted retirees and other women she thought might be interested, and ran the idea by the church board. The board liked the idea, offered its support and gave her the green light.

"My heart wanted to do it," Turgeson says. "One of the first people that was interested was Brenda Brady. She gave me courage."

Turgeson says that even her grandchildren are participating, as Turgeson showed their work.

"They picked out the fabric, and I helped them with it," she says.

So for the past decade, a steady group of between 12 and 15 women has worked on the quilts. The group meets every Wednesday between September and May from 9 a.m. until noon.

Both Turgeson and Prout say that anyone is welcome to join, noting that some members of the group do not attend St. Peter.

"We build up our supply, and in the fall, we send 40-50 quilts to Fort Wayne," Prout says. "We make baby quilts and lap robes in addition to the bed-size quilts."

However, there are some guidelines that the group has to follow when making the quilts.

"When we send the quilts to World Relief, we don't want to make them perfect because they could end up in the black market," Prout says. "We want to make sure the right people are getting them."

And both women stressed that the group is strictly non-profit.

"Nearly all of our materials are donated, and we buy very little," Turgeson says.

Turgeson noted that shipping two 40-pound boxes halfway around the world is no cheap feat.

"If we do sell a quilt, we use that money for shipping," she says.

In a normal shipment, the quilts are on display in the church sanctuary before they are sent off in October.
Prout and Turgeson both agree that in addition to helping less fortunate people, they enjoy being in the company of the other ladies.

Other members of the group, who have all helped create the quilts, are: Sharon Thompson, P.J. Eddie, Virginia Pohler, Dorothy Bush, Marjorie Richardson, Barbara Spreen, Donna Smith, Linda Hollowell, Karen Elzroth, Bea Schmalzried, Kate Shwartz, Janice Haneline and Roseanna Christ. Turgeson also notes that Cindy Christman, the church secretary, is an important part of the club due to her clerical expertise.

To donate material or money, or to find out more about the Ladies' Quilt Club, call Turgeson at 356-7889.