The warmest gift of all

Mary Gentle holds up one of her quilts she sewed for Quilts of Valor Thursday. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

With winter just around the corner, First Congregational Church of Austin is preparing some timely donations.

Examples of quilts sent to everything from Minot flood relief, Quilts of Valor and the Ronald McDonald House are on display at the Oak Park Mall. Quilts like these will be hung in First Congregational Church this Sunday. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Members of the church and community will be donating several dozen quilts to four causes next week, including Minot, N.D.’s flood relief, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and Quilts of Valor. It’s all through a group known as the Dorca Circle, which meets every Wednesday at First Congregational and has continued its work year-round for 20 years.

“Every quilt, fundamentally, has close to about $200 to $300 in it,” said Donna Myers, who helps make the quilts.

But it’s not about the money. It’s about the hard work and dedication.

“There’s a lot of work making a quilt,” said Mary Gentle, who made about nine quilts to donate this year. “It comes from the heart. It’s not just cutting out fabric and sewing fabric together.”

Instead of donating blankets, winter clothing or other pre-made items, the group spends many hours quilting because, as they put it, quilts offer something more.

“It becomes fellowship time,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Endicott of First Congregational.

That fellowship takes place weekly at First Congregational and happens in many churches around the country. While providing quilts for families stricken by hardships, the women come together and form not only a bond amongst themselves, but with the people to which they donate.

Endicott said several quilt recipients have sent letters to First Congregational, and Dorca members have even spoken with one family via Skype. Though Endicott has only been reverend of First Congregational for a year, she said she can already tell how people around the world have been affected by the quilts and write back to the Dorca Circle and the church.

“It’s part of their therapy,” she said about people recovering from their hardships.

Locally, several quilts of different styles and sizes will be donated to the family that will receive its Habitat for Humanity home. And of all the quilts to be donated, each has a uniqueness.

“It’s a variety of quilts, because we have a variety of talents” said Donna Myers, a member of the group.

Because anybody can join the Dorca Circle, beginners to experts all band together to work on different pieces of the quilts. Within the Dorca Circle, more than a dozen women from ages 50 to 94 participate regularly. Local businesses and individuals from the community have even donated materials and money to keep the process rolling yearly, too.

Now that it’s time to distribute the quilts, Endicott and her congregation will hold a dedication and blessing of the quilts at this Sunday’s service. All of the quilts for donation from the last year will be displayed from the church balconies and pews. Furthermore, members will join and make a quilt during the service, of which Endicott said will reveal the symbolism within every quilt.

“These little scraps of fabric may not look like anything … until we come together as a group, and together we make a beautiful whole,” she said.

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