BRISTOL, Tenn. (May 9, 2018) -- Some call them “crazy quilts.” Some call them “ugly quilts.” Either way, Anderson Street United Methodist Church is one of several churches where people meet regularly to create these special bedrolls for the homeless.
Since 2002, a group of about five women have been meeting at Anderson Street on the third Thursday of every month to stitch up and stuff personal-care items into quilts that will be donated to local shelters.
“This is number 136,” said Peg Staton on a recent Thursday morning, before making the final stitches on the latest quilt.
“I like knowing this quilt is going to keep someone warm,” said Betty Tanksley, age 90, who says she's blind but still won't miss the monthly fellowship and mission outing with her church friends.
The quilts are 7 feet by 7 feet, Staton explained. The quilt top is created by a United Methodist member from another church. The Anderson Street women add a bottom layer and stuff the middle with old blankets, mattress pads, or t-shirts before sewing it all together.
The quilt tops are made and donated by Jacquie Dishner, a member at Hulls Chapel United Methodist Church in Piney Flats, Tennessee. Dishner, age 85, has been making the quilted tops for needlework groups at Anderson Street, Holly Springs United Methodist and Edgefield United Methodist for the last six years.
“People give me the material, and I sew it all in strips,” she said. “That’s why they call it a ‘crazy quilt.’ There’s no design or anything like that.”
Staton said she found the directions to make the quilts years ago in a magazine article. She was inspired to begin Anderson Street's crazy-quilt ministry in memory of her brother. The story behind the quilts and directions are online at TheSleepingBagProject.org.
Before rolling up their newest creation like a sleeping bag, the group at Anderson Street places socks, a hat, a scarf, gloves, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, a comb and tissues in the middle. Then they place their hands on the quilt and pray over it:
Lord, take the work of our hands and bless it, and in thy name let the person that receives this gift know that they are loved. Amen.
PREACHING IN ACTION
The Anderson Street group delivers their quilts to the Salvation Army or to the Haven of Rest Rescue Mission. Brian Plank, executive director at Haven of Rest, said the crazy quilts are “greatly appreciated.”
“Some people just will not come in off the streets,” Plank said. “They come in to the pantry area and say, ‘I don’t want to stay. I just want something to keep me warm.’”
Last year, Haven of Rest served 37,000 meals to Bristol’s hungry and provided 14,000 beds to the homeless, including 2,000 for children, Plank said.
Anderson Street UMC is located less than a mile away from the Anderson Street bridge, where some of the local homeless citizens live in tents. Seeing their neighbors on a regular basis helps keep the "plight of the homeless" on the hearts and minds of church members, Staton said.
"You hear comments like, 'Why don't they get a job?'" she said. "Well, it's so much more complicated than that."
The Rev. Barbara Doyle, pastor at Anderson Street, said she was proud of her parishioners for “showing concern for those who can’t care for themselves.”
“Any time we can do Matthew 25: 36-46, it is a great ministry,” Doyle said. “This is preaching in action. Seeing a sermon is greater than hearing one. I love these people because they love God and their neighbors.”
Contact Annette Spence at email@example.com.
Nothing ugly about 'ugly quilts' for Johnson City homeless (The Call, 11/21/17)
Photos below: (1) Patricia Hill sews. (2) Left to right: Patricia Hill, Peg Staton, Lois Johnson, Betty Tanksley. (3) Personal-care items that will go inside the quilt. (4) Peg and Patricia tie up the bedroll. (5) Rev. Barbara Doyle. (6) Anderson Street UMC.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.