Thrasher Mission Quilters serve community by sewing
VINTON–Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church is well-known in Vinton for its community outreach activities. The church partnered with the Town of Vinton and other area churches to keep the Town’s swimming pool in operation when it was in danger of closing. They serve community dinners on Wednesday nights. Members are helping to renovate transitional housing for graduates of the Rescue Mission’s residential drug and alcohol recovery program.
Now a small but spirited group of women have organized themselves as the Thrasher Mission Crafters to utilize their sewing skills for the benefit of the community and beyond. Most had been doing crafts on their own, but now they have joined together to use their talents for a higher purpose.
Organized by Jan Dickens, the group meets in the Fellowship Hall at Thrasher on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
Some are expert quilters, seamstresses, and crafters. Others are just learning. Many come for the conversation and the fellowship as much as for the sewing.
They come from a variety of backgrounds. Most live in Vinton and attend Thrasher, but that’s not a requirement. Some are Vinton natives; others moved here in retirement.
Nell Townley provides some of the expertise for the Mission Crafters group. She comes from a long line of quilters, dating back to the 1850’s. She is recognized as a quilting expert and has demonstrated her skills at Ferrum College. Her favorite quilt, of Hawaiian design, took 1,300 hours and several years to complete. She has won many “Best in Show” quilting awards at the West Virginia State Fair.
Townley’s sister, Betty Jean Dodson, is also a member of the group, and of another quilting group at Redhill Baptist near Clearbrook, where she attends church. The Redhill group creates quilts for the isolettes for preemies at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Dodson comes to the Thrasher group to spend more time with her sister and to help the new group get established.
“I love doing service for the community,” said Dodson.
Vera Payne, a retired Labor and Delivery nurse, doesn’t quilt, but she has sewn hundreds of tote bags for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the church’s international humanitarian aid organization. The totes are stuffed with supplies for school kits, layette kits, health kits, and birthing kits, which are distributed in disaster relief areas around the world.
Sally Sboray, a retired teacher, makes small pillows for cancer patients who have undergone mastectomies, to place under their arms.
Ruth Sage specializes in turbans for cancer patients. She estimates that she has made over 1000 and takes a batch every other week to the Cancer Center in Roanoke. She leaves them in a basket for patients undergoing cancer treatments who come to the Center even from other states. The turbans are very popular with patients, a source of cheer in the midst of a bleak situation.
“I’m putting a smile on someone’s face,” said Sage.
Currently the Thrasher group is focused on making quilts for the Rescue Mission. Those who quilt, often piece the quilts at home by hand or machine and then bring them to the Mission Crafters meetings to be assembled with batting and backing, and then tied by the group. Some members come with sewing machines to stitch scraps of donated fabric into quilt tops. Some iron, some tie. It’s a group effort.
“Many hands make light work,” said Jan Dickens. “Our group is growing; we have added a few people each meeting. We have fun and fellowship while we are doing missions.”
The Thrasher Mission Crafters welcome anyone of any experience level, or no experience at all, who would like to join them, whether it’s to quilt or to help with the turban, tote bag, or pillow projects. In addition, they especially welcome the donation of quilt batting, large pieces of fabric for quilt backing, and knit fabric for turbans. Just contact Thrasher Memorial at 344-4708.
By Debbie Adams