WILSON – The dozen or so members of the Wilson Community Quilters meet weekly and stitch together approximately 200 quilts a year to share with those in need.
It turns out these handmade quilts are proving to be equally parts comfortable and comforting, not only those who receive them, but to those who make them.
The group last week shared homemade wares with local veterans, donating 61 red, white and blue quilts to Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Each quilt is different, each homemade and each was blessed at a special service on Veterans Day in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where the Wilson Community Quilters hold their meetings.
Member Jill Rohring said she got the idea to make patriotic quilts in June. That consumed her free time for the past five months and also provided a welcome distraction after she was forced to close her business and then lost her fiance, Keith Kempainen, who served in the U.S. Army and was veteran of the Vietnam War.
“We were together for 12 years,” Rohring said. “He was in that generation who returned from the war and wasn’t welcome. He was spit on and called a baby killer. It hurt him.”
Her mother, Rena Rohring, the coordinator for the Wilson Quilters, said she encouraged her daughter to rechannel her energies into the quilting group.
“It gets to be a bonding thing. The women bond with each other,” Rena Rohring said of the group. “We all go through life and have bad times. You get love [in that bonding] and that goes into the medium.”
Jill Rohring said she spent her summer and fall sewing, stitching together squares and making the front side for about three quilts every day.
Group members then took her finished patchwork and pieced it together with the solid backing and batting, which is used for the filling inside of the quilts.
“We really went at it for quite awhile. I never dreamed that we would make so many,” Rena Rohring said of efforts by her daughters and other members.
“It feels like I really accomplished something this year,” said Jill Rohring. “I was really devastated by what happened to me professionally and personally. It was really was a rejuvenation for me.”
She said she and member Rachel Pollow of Wilson, a retired Army nurse, took bags of quilts to the VA Hospital in Buffalo, which will now be passed out to veterans.
“These quilts are just the right size to wrap around your shoulders,” Jill Rohring said. “These quilts show just how important it is to say thank you to someone who needs it.”
Rena Rohring, who retired in 1994 as the Wilson town assessor, said when the group happened to need a coordinator at the time, so she took over.
She said when she first joined the group in the 1980s, members would make four to five quilts a year, often meeting in a member’s basement. Now the group makes up to 200 quilts each year, using funding from the Lutheran Church, to buy fabric and materials. They also meet in the church hall and store materials at the church.
She said the quilts are distributed internationally by the Lutheran Relief Fund to help victims of earthquakes, fires, droughts and other disasters, and are also distributed locally by Niagara Hospice, the Wilson Lions Club and the Linus Project which gives blankets to children living in shelters.
Both women noted that the price for rolls of batting, a polyster fabric used for filling which is petroleum-based, has tripled in price. Any donations are accepted, including newer fabric pieces.
Anyone who would like to donate to the group or those who interested in being part of the Wilson Quilters can contact Jill Rohring at 213-7494 or Rena Rohring at 751-9756. The women said they are willing to make arrangements to pick up any donations.
“It’s not about money,” Rena Rohring said. “Love really has been built into these quilts.”