By Valerie Baldowski
Elaine Yeadon carefully laid out squares of brightly colored cloth on a table. Across the room, Karl Urbanitsch was stitching together more squares with yarn.
Yeadon, 71, and Urbanitsch, 80, are two of the 16 members of the Busy Bee Quilters, a ministry of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Stockbridge. Some of the members gathered in the church fellowship hall downstairs on Wednesday, busily working on quilts in various stages of completion.
Happy chatter filled the room as some arranged the squares in patterns, while others sewed linings on the quilts, sat at sewing machines to sew them together, or arranged the completed quilts in large plastic containers.
Yeadon, of Stockbridge, and her husband, Jim, have been members since joining in 2008. The group includes five men, and Yeadon said she persuaded Jim to get involved in the ministry soon after the couple joined the church.
"That's when they asked us to come down for the quilters," she said. "My husband wasn't too enthused, [he said] 'I don't sew,' but I said, well, let's try it. Once we got down here, you know how the guys all stand over there and they gossip, they do their talking, and the women do their thing. It was a social thing for all of us."
Yeadon said her favorite by-product of Busy Bee Quilters membership is the friendships forged, and the unity of purpose the group has in reaching out to the community with their talents and skills. "The camaraderie, getting together with people in the church, getting to know people, and working together ... " she said.
"Everybody's ideas blend together, and we make some good quilts."
The group meets at the church the first, third, and fifth Tuesdays of the month, from 9 a.m., to noon, to make the quilts. Since its inception in 1997, the group has made and given away more than 5,400 quilts, said Yeadon.
Some of the organizations that have received the hand-made quilts include: Calvary Refuge in Forest Park; Carestone at Mt. Zion in Jonesboro; Dogwood Forest at Eagle's Landing in Stockbridge; A Friend's House in McDonough, and Haven House in McDonough.
Other recipients of the quilts include: Golden Crest Assisted Living in Morrow; Meals on Wheels in Henry and Clayton counties; Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children's Care Home in Locust Grove; Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge; and Westbury Nursing Home in McDonough.
Yeadon said after the quilts are completed, they must be blessed before being given out. "They put them all out here, we all stand around, the pastor prays over them, and we all pray over them," she added. "We put our hands on [them], touching the quilts, and we bless them that way."
Cloth for the quilts come from a variety of sources, said Jonesboro resident, Myrna Humphrey, an original group member since 1997. "People donated it, or we also call drapery places. A lot of times, they have extra fabric from making draperies that they give to us," said Humphrey. "We buy it at stores or flea markets, and then people bring in fabric."
For Humphrey, being a part of the ministry allows her to pursue a favorite activity in a social setting she enjoys. "I just love to sew, and I love getting together with the group," she said.
The group also donates the quilts as part of its holiday-season gift-giving, said Humphrey.
"During the year, we collect gently used clothing, sleepers, hats, and socks," she added. "Then, we buy diapers, and at Christmastime, we put these together in a gift bag, and we put one of our quilts in there, and we give it to Southern Regional [Medical Center] and to Henry General [Henry Medical Center.] Last year, we did 26 to each hospital."
Urbanitsch, of Jonesboro, said he was eventually drawn into the group when he began driving his wife, also a member, to the quilting sessions in 1997. He was hesitant at first, but said that he now does all the needlework in stitching together the square fabric pieces into quilts.
"I got in kind of innocently," he said with a chuckle. "The ladies started it. A lady from St. Louis, she was 80 when she started it."
Depending on the type of materials used, Urbanitsch said making a quilt can be a challenge.
"It's not that hard, but it is," he said. "You have heavy ones. Sometimes, we have blue jeans and all kinds of things supposed to be cut out, and when you start threading through, they couldn't do it."
Urbanitsch said the quilters asked for his help threading together the heavier quilts, made of thicker fabric. "I tried one, and that was the first," he continued. "They said, 'can you come again? I said, 'I guess so.' [Now] I do them all."