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Seniors capture life's moments through quilting

By Mehgaan Jones

mjones@news-daily.com

On Thursday, the "Griswell Senior Quilters" were busy creating long-lasting memories, at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro.

The center, located at 2300 Highway 138 East, offers free quilting classes, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m., until 4 p.m.

Quilting Instructor Bobbie Ann Irvins, 70, of Rex, explained that she started collecting items for quilting many years ago, and after retirement, wanted to teach the craft.

"When people start the class, I talk to them about their interests, and what goals they have in mind," Irvins said. She added that she starts beginners with a small project of patterns from construction paper, and supplies them with materials.

Riverdale resident, Vinia Newell, 55, said that she quilted with her mother more than 30 years ago. After a lot of time passed, she said, she decided she wanted to take up quilting again. "I find quilting relaxing and very enjoyable," she said.

The quilters use pieces of clothing gathered from family members, and also use curtains, sheets, photographs -- whatever they can find -- to create a unique quilt. "We recycle everything ... we don't believe in throwing anything away," said Irvins.

"There is a bio on each quilt," the instructor added. She said that some quilters manage to complete quilts that their deceased mothers and grandmothers started years ago. Irvins added that quilting recaptures the participant's joy from memories.

Jonesboro resident, Lenora Waldrep, 70, said she shed a tear or two, when she completed her first quilt. "I never started anything in my life, and finished it," she said.

She said her next quilt also holds a lot of sentimental value to her. In February, her father passed away, so she is making a quilt out of pieces of his blue jeans, and combining it with her brother's jeans, as well.

It will be a gift for her brother, she added.

The quilting class has big plans for the future, which include making quilts for the homeless, and another group-quilting project. "We are making a reproduction of the underground railroad," said Irvins.

That quilt will be time-consuming, she said, so the project is not expected to be completed until around August of next year. It will be placed on display at the Griswell Senior Center.

Managing such a project will require teamwork, Irvins stressed. "We learn together," she added. "We don't say 'I cant.' We say what we are going to do."