SUNBURY — On Thursday morning, the Piece Corps held a meeting at Sunbury United Methodist Church. The meeting featured a “show and tell” portion where two dozen or so ladies showed the club the quilts they had been working on and told how they made them.
However, some of the pieces shown were among 210 quilts being packed up this morning from Piece Corps member Cheryl Taylor’s Delaware home, which will be sent to Poland for Ukrainian refugee children at the Polish Christian Ministries (PCM) church camp in Ostroda.
Taylor, who joined the group just before the COVID-19 pandemic, showed off two quilts. The colorful quilts feature Ukrainian children, using a print pattern she had acquired years ago. She wasn’t pleased with the results, but the other women were impressed. Good quilting takes time, Taylor said later, meaning at least a month’s worth of work instead of the week she took to produce the pieces.
Ruthie Hoover is vice president of the Piece Corps group. One her quilts featured blue and yellow fabric, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. She said quilts are often given to people who are sick or having a bad time. “Hopefully, they’ll like them as much as we liked making them,” Hoover said of the 26 Piece Corps quilts going to the refugees.
The Piece Corps is a play on words, Taylor said. “Piecing is what we do to make the (blocks for the) tops.”
A former teacher who has been quilting since 2000, Taylor said she was moved into action following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
“I just felt so strongly. I was reading about all the devastation in the Ukraine, and I thought, there’s not anything we can do as private citizens — we can’t influence military or government — but we can make a quilt and give it to a child who’s lost everything.”
She knew the ministry planted 26 churches in Poland after the communists had left and saw in their newsletter they had opened up their usual children’s camp as a refugee center. Taylor asked PCM Executive Director David Hatfield if they would accept quilts, and he said yes, but they couldn’t afford to have them shipped. Taylor reached out to her fellow quilters and guilds throughout the country via Facebook, and being a close-knit community, they responded in-kind with handmade quilts and hard-earned donations.
“I had quilts that I have no idea how they heard about me,” Taylor said. Quilts have arrived from 20 states, with the most coming from guilds in California and Pennsylvania. “We’re our own little happy world … They’re so supportive and kind and caring. Every family has things and crises they go through, and boy, quilters rally around you. They’re just wonderful.”
Her goal was to receive 180 quilts, which was exceeded, but the extras won’t go to waste, Taylor said. The refugee camp can hold 180 people. The last time she spoke to PCM, she was told 135 children were in the camp, and the rest were mothers.
“It changes because people go in and out,” she said. They didn’t have fathers — some were orphans, some have fathers who were fighting — it’s individual situations. They come with a carry-on bag, and that’s about all their earthly goods.”
There are four Ukrainian million refugees in Poland, she said, more than in any other country. Some sources say more than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland, nearly one-fourth of that nation’s population. In an article this month for The Conversation, University of Richmond Professor Sandra Joireman wrote that many “Ukrainian refugees might not return home, even long after the war eventually ends.”
“I can’t fix anything for them, but I can give them a quilt they can lie under and keep warm,” Taylor said.
Taylor reiterated what Hoover said about quilters being kind-hearted and good people, spending hundreds of their own dollars on materials and countless hours in constructing colorful, yet practical, works of art that are given away to provide warmth and comfort. Taylor said quilt-making can be comforting and therapeutic to the quilter as well, although she joked that she’s not sure if it is cheaper than going to therapy.
However, there is also a competitive aspect to the hobby. For example, there is a week devoted to the craft at Quilt City USA (and home of the National Quilt Museum) in Paducah, Kentucky, at the end of April. In addition, Taylor said she has spent six months creating “a masterpiece” for Houston’s International Quilt Festival in November, with competitors from 32 nations in what she called the Olympics of quilting.
As for the charity work, Taylor said she’s praying the 15 boxes of quilts fit in her minivan when a friend and herself go to deliver them to the post office.
Taylor said the weekend donation will be the extent of her involvement in assisting the refugees, but if anyone wants to help, they can donate money to Polish Christian Ministries at pcmusa.org. The organization’s website said, “We assist Polish Christians in becoming healthy, growing, self-supporting, and reproducing congregations. We do this by planting churches, providing resources and building friendships.”
“They are providing food, housing, shelter, belongings, everything they can do for all these refugees, and they are helping more than the 180 refugees at the camp,” Taylor said. She said the PCM members are also taking refugees into their homes.
Also in Sunbury this afternoon, across the street from SUMC, there will be Ukrainian Easter egg decorating being done at the Community Library. The preregistered event fee included a donation to US Together, which assists refugees and immigrants “to find a safe haven in Ohio.”