Blanketed in love

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

Scraps of cloth are transformed into colorful, comforting quilts for children in shelters and social programs with the helping hands (and machines) of the Quilting Angels of Holy Redeemer Parish, including Tarania Snell (left) and Lynda McGee. (NTC photo/Ben Torres)


Twice each month, a circle of seamstresses gather inside Bea Schmidtzinsky’s home in Aledo to piece together carefully chosen blocks of fabric into quilts.

As sewing machines hum, and nimble fingers fashion material into intricate patterns, the Holy Redeemer parishioners share family news, memories, and creative suggestions.

Lighthearted conversation and laughter fills the room, but the day’s mission is never forgotten. Each quilter’s work is steady, purposeful, and exquisite. There’s a reason so much care is put into every stitch.

 “Somebody out there is waiting for these blankets,” commented Mary Trinkle, referring to the homeless children, newborn babies, and special needs youngsters who will find warmth and comfort under the multi-layered coverlets.  “A quilt for a kid who, for whatever reason, doesn’t have much is special. It’s something that will always be theirs.”

The sewing circle is fastidious but prolific. With the arrival of winter and dipping temperatures, the group produced 49 crib-size quilts in December. Many were delivered to the Salvation Army’s overflow shelter for women and children by Nancy Eder. The diocesan school nurse consultant serves as a liaison between the quilters and various social service agencies and charities gifted with the blankets.

Shelter caseworkers marvel when Eder arrives with an armful of beautifully-crafted donations that are brand new, clean, and something children can keep.

“I went to the Salvation Army one bitterly cold evening and they had the bedding out — white sheets and blankets,” she recalled. “I gave them these colorful things for the children, and the staff was so happy.”

The cheerful bed covers brightened the evening for the shelter’s youngest guests and “allowed them to be kids,” Eder observed. 

Quilts are also given to Catholic Charities, Mother and Unborn Baby Care, Rachel Ministries, Samaritan House, and to new mothers attending Cassata Catholic High School.

“When the ladies give me a larger-size quilt, I give it to the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur,” the diocesan nurse explained. “If I have a special needs child in one of our schools who’s been sick or hospitalized, I might give them one too.”

The small gesture not only keeps someone warm and lifts their spirits but, “I tell them it was made with love just for them,” Eder continued. 

Distributed quietly without questions or judgment, the delivery messenger tells recipients the handmade gifts come from “lovely, beautiful quilting ladies.

“They’re so talented, work tirelessly, and always ask, ‘do you need more?’” Eder added.
 

NTC photo/Ben Torres

Holy Redeemer’s quilting group formed almost eight years ago after members of the Aledo parish discovered Bea Schmidtzinsky’s skill with a needle and thread. 

“I started quilting when I was eight-years-old,” said the Hill Country native who grew up near Fredericksburg. “My mother handed me some fabric, a pattern, and scissors, and said, ‘cut this up.’ So I did.”

Decades later when Holy Redeemer was first established, Schmidtzinsky made a turquoise-and-white quilt for the new parish to raffle with proceeds going to the building fund. More than $3,000 was raised, and people began asking the artisan for quilting lessons. She was reluctant at first, doubting her teaching abilities.

“One day, I was sitting in the choir loft looking at a picture of the Lord’s Supper and I just felt Jesus telling me to do it,” recalled Schmidtzinsky, who now quilts alongside seven or eight women on a regular basis.

When the Trinity Valley Quilting Guild she belongs to began making blankets for John Peter Smith Hospital, she suggested her Holy Redeemer friends do something similar for charity. Material for their projects comes from donated remnants and fabric.

Kathy Yosten could make clothes, embroider, and knit but quilting is a skill learned from Schmidtzinsky. While her mentor “hand quilts,” Yosten prefers a machine to fashion squares of pink calico together.

“It helps me get the baby quilts done quickly,” said the design expert who is part of Holy Redeemer’s Art and Environment ministry.

The self-described decorating buff usually makes one quilt every two weeks but can easily produce eight a month if needed.

 “The quilts are an excuse for me to use fun, bright, and sunny fabrics. That’s something I don’t usually do,” admitted Yosten, who fashions whatever combination of colors and patterns strikes her.

Getting together with other like-minded creative people is all about fellowship and helping others, she added. The quilters never add a name or identifying card to the blankets they give away.

“We don’t want credit. It’s not about us,” Yosten insisted. “The church knows we’re doing it and that’s enough.”

She hopes the babies and youngsters who fall asleep under the cozy quilts feel the love sewn into the fabric.

“God gave me these gifts. He made me creative so I could do things for other people,” Yosten explained. “The fact these quilts go to people who really need them is a plus.”

 

Twice each month, a circle of seamstresses gather inside Bea Schmidtzinsky’s home in Aledo to piece together carefully chosen blocks of fabric into quilts.

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