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Comforter Knotting Marathon Cultivates Spirit of Giving
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter

Volunteers Dorothy Detweiler of Green Lane, left, and Loretta Gilmore, of Quakertown, right,  stretch fabric and pin it to a quilt rack to be worked on during What Knot! Week.  

                 You don't need to go much farther than West Swamp Mennonite Church to see a small group of volunteers doing some pretty big things.

                This week the Milford Township church is hosting "Why Knot! Week," a five-day event where volunteers of all ages, male and female, are coming together to make quilts and comforters for people in need. 

                Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., people gather to sew and knot blankets to be donated to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Orphan International, MAMA Project, the Bucks County Housing Group's Milford Square shelter and an unidentified women's shelter in Philadelphia.

                They will then be used both locally and across the planet, said coordinator Lynne Rush. 

                "We have heard from MCC that there are a lot of Syrian refugees in Lebanon right now," she said, explaining that MCC works in more than 60 foreign countries.  "They're saying how heat is infrequent there and this is just another daily need that can be met.  The gift of a blanket not only gives them warmth, it gives them hope."

                Comforters will also make their way to Guatemala, with Orphan International, and Honduras, with Pennsburg-based MAMA Project.  In the past comforters have also traveled to other refugee camps in war-torn areas, to Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and to Haiti following the 7.0 Mw magnitude earthquake in 2010.   

                Holding a marathon-style event was the brainchild of Joyce Rosenberger.

                "Our [quilting] club had a lot of them stacking up," Rosenberger said of the unfinished pieces.  "So I thought we should have a marathon session.  I felt compelled to do it.  They are so desperately needed by people everywhere."

Rosenberger said she and the other volunteers wanted to follow their passion for being "not only hearers of the word, but doers of the word," referencing a biblical passage from James.

                So, in 2006, mostly church members started getting together to work on the comforters and quilts.  Much of the fabric is donated.  The volunteers then stretch the sewn quilt squares or whole fabric on a quilt rack, where it is pinned together with a layer of batting to the back.  Volunteers then make double knots at different locations to anchor the pieces together and it is sewn around the edges.

                Rosenberger said much of the work was previously done by church member Mildred Rice, who, while now retired, sewed six days a week for many years to complete prior blankets.

                "It has really grown and is a real community thing now," Rosenberger said.  "It's also a time of great fellowship for those who come out."    

                This year, its tenth year, the volunteers expect to complete their 2,000th blanket.  Rush said it's a great feeling to be able to give to those in need.

                Linda Roach of Quakertown said she takes her vacation each year during What Knot! Week to contribute her skills.

                "It helps other people and you know it's for a good cause," she noted.

                "I like to help out where I can," said Rhoda Gehman, who explained her church, Bally Mennonite, no longer has enough members for their own quilting group.  "It makes you feel good, wonderful to know they are going to people who can use them."

                Some of the blankets being donated this year could make it to Honduras as soon as the end of spring, said Dr. Herman Sagastume, field director for MAMA Project.  If funding permits, Sagastume said MAMA will soon send them as part of a shipping container full of supplies.  They could also be distributed by area teams volunteering through the organization's medical and dental brigades this summer.

                "Many of them don't have anything, so a blanket is a good thing, an excellent thing," he said of the people to receive the comforters.  He noted a family of eight in Honduras typically has one bed in the home and children by and large sleep on the floor.   

                "Yes, it can make a big difference."

                For more information on What Knot! Week, running through Friday, or to volunteer, contact Lynne Rush at (215)536-7468.





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