Grateful Threads: Building community one stitch at a time

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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March 20, 2021 was National Quilting Day. It is only appropriate if you were in the Rees Park area on this day, you would have seen hundreds of quilts on display. Each with their own special story, each with their own brand of beauty. To walk through them was to be wrapped in awe at each little piece of cloth, each stich being a declaration of commitment to beauty. The event was put on by the Grateful Threads Quilting and Sewing Guild. The guild, established in 2018, is a group of local quilters “who use their skills to meet significant needs in our community.” They take their work seriously and they have worked to provide over 150 quilts for foster children in Sumter County and for patients receiving treatment at Phoebe Sumter’s Oncology Department. During the onset of COVID-19, you could find the guild members making 5000 masks for those on the front lines. In September of 2020, they took on a new cause, to honor our Sumter County veterans with their work. They anticipate “making more that 100 quilts for the men and women who have selflessly served out country.”

So how does this happen?  The group meets twice a week at the pastorium of the Lee Street Methodist Church. As Valarie Duff reports, “We have 15 sewing machines set up there.” Some of the machines were acquired through a donation, however the guild is a recipient of two grants, one sponsored by Sumter Electric and another by Agrium. To hear these ladies tell it, the only skill required is a willingness to participate. Laura Gerlach reports she started quilting when she became interested in wanting to learn how to complete a T-shirt quilt. From there she has gone on to traditional quilting, but she owns a desire to be unique in her patterns. For Laura, the quilting passion has taken on another function. As a teacher to 4th and 5th graders, she is using quilts to teach math skills to Furlow Charter School scholars. Laura reports all her students have participated in some way, and she uses the skill to teach “area, perimeters and measurement” among other skills. The effort has been so successful her classes have completed quilts that were auctioned off to fund a field trip. Patti Ingle has been part of the group for six months. The current service project of completing quilts for veterans is especially significant for her as her husband is a veteran and has served in the Marines as well as the National Guard. Patti is a great example of how the quilting group comes together. She is becoming more and more skilled in the art, but she knows where her strengths are, and she will contribute to those areas. While some members are excellent at doing the actual quilting, others are talented in areas such as sewing, choosing materials, creating designs and even ironing. Quilting is not a one-person job in the guild and the members contribute their individual strengths to make for the better good. Nancy Gerlach, another member, speaks on the efforts put forth to complete a breast cancer ribbon quilt. She reiterates the fact that members will take on a block and submit it as an offering to the larger goal of a complete quilt as we think of them.


Quilting is an art which sings with history. Lila Centerfitt reports of quilts being used to aid in the Underground Railroad. The quilts would indicate which direction the slaves should go to find freedom. Others would tell the conductor not to stop at certain stations because they were not friendly to the effort. Lila reports she has seen some of the patterns used for this purpose and finds them remarkably interesting. In researching some of the quilting history, it is interesting to see exactly why and how it came to popularity. Being that Sumter County is considered a rural area, to learn of some of the past quilting rituals was a particular interest. On the website, it is reported, “members of rural communities frequently joined together to help their neighbors with big projects, such as barn building or finishing quilts. The quilting bee was a social event that allowed the finishing of several quilts in a single day instead of weeks or months.” The Grateful Threads will certainly gather in the same spirit as rural community personalities of years past. They see the value of bringing an individual strength to the table to accomplish a greater goal. It is not expected everyone have all the talents, but that they will offer what they can to accomplish the goal. The guild welcomes you to bring your talent to the table. They meet on Tuesday at 1pm and Thursdays at 6pm at Lee Street Methodist Church’s parsonage, directly across the street from the church on Lee Street. They are found under “Grateful Threads” on Facebook, or you may contact the president, Valerie Duff at 229.938.9830. If you prefer to utilize mail, their address is PO Box 7172, Americus, GA 31709. If you are one of the 2700 veterans who lives in Sumter County and would like to receive a quilt, please use these methods to let your desires be known. The guild is looking forward to bestowing one of their treasures upon you as a token of saying thank you for your service. Each quilt costs about $50 in materials. The guild welcomes sponsorships of their quilts and will designate you as the sponsor on the quilt. There is a way for everyone to join in the community of the quilt.