GREENFIELD — Phyllis Kingen runs a hand over the rows of navy and yellow quilt blocks.
“This is the way they used to make quilts years and years ago,” she says. “They didn’t have any fancy quilting machines.”
She and other women from Faith Lutheran Church are tying quilts with yarn. From each quilt’s place, spread across two rectangular tables for tying at the church, it is sent to offer comfort to someone in need in the United States or around the world.
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“We just pray the Lord takes them wherever they’re needed,” said group leader Jean Fox.
The quilts go to Orphan Grain Train, a Christian relief organization that sends food and other supplies to people in need in the United States and 64 other countries.
It began with shipments to Latvia; in the nearly 25 years that have followed, Orphan Grain Train’s relief has taken various shapes. In 2016, its forms included dried beans for Hurricane Matthew survivors in Haiti, food and blankets to refugee camps in Greece, or pry bars and borax for those cleaning up from flooding in Louisiana.
Orphan Grain Train has a warehouse in Jonesville, a town of less than 200 about 11 miles south of Columbus. That’s where the quilts crafted at Faith Lutheran go to be sent on their way.
“It goes from there all over, wherever there’s a need,” Fox said.
Sometimes, they are picked up. Other times, members of the church go to Jonesville to sort clothes or otherwise volunteer, Fox said, and when they do, they take quilts with them.
In 2015, the church contributed more than 90 quilts, along with more than 20 crocheted afghans.
The quilts take shape from donated fabric. Sometimes, people donate cloth; one church member visited his friend, a widower, who donated his late wife’s fabric stash. Sometimes, the group receives monetary donations. Occasionally, it requests sheets to use for quilt backing through the church newsletter.
The women gather twice a month at the church, 200 W. McKenzie Road. They pull out pre-pieced quilt tops arranged and sewn by Fox or group members Lauretta Arthur or Beverly Wilson, which means about four hours have already been invested in each quilt.
The quilt tops are layered with batting and backing, and the volunteers tie a series of knots to hold those layers together. It’s an important step in the process but not one that requires sewing prowess, Wilson said.
“Can you tie a square knot or use scissors? You’re in,” she said.
About eight to 10 women tie quilts for two hours. The quilts are then folded and taken to a group member’s home for sewing around the edges to bind the quilt together.
The tying binds more than quilts. Those hours provide some good fellowship, said group member Carolyn Haas.
“It’s fun,” she said. “My mother would have said this is good therapy.”
If you’d like to donate fabric or money toward the quilt making for Orphan Grain Train, call Faith Lutheran Church at 317-462-4609. Learn more about the relief organization at ogt.org.