This group of 7 women spent the year making 134 quilts. Now they'll donate them as part of a church tradition.

Heather Jensen straightens a quilt on a pew in the First Evangelical Lutheran Church earlier this week. Jensen is the president of the North Platte church’s Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America organization, which recently completed 134 quilts that will be donated to groups locally and around the world.

Since the start of the year, a group of five to seven women has gathered every Wednesday in a small classroom in the education center of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte to sew for an hour or two.

One wall of the room is lined with 60 stacked boxes of donated fabric, while across the room a few sewing machines sit on the table where one quilt after another has been pieced together.

Ten months after the first stitches were made, the work by members of the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America organization has resulted in 134 quilts, all of which will be donated.

“The thing is the women go about this work so quietly,” said Heather Jensen, the president of First Evangelical’s WELCA. “Then every first Sunday in November you see all (of the quilts) and its like, ‘Oh, OK. That’s what has been going on.’ It’s just mind-boggling when you think of the hours (the women) give for the project and the heart that they have.”

The finished works of colored patterns cover the backs of every pew on the main floor of the church as well as pews in the balcony.

The project will be on display for the church’s congregation for this weekend’s services before they are sent to a number of organizations, along with school backpacks, adult health kits and baby care kits, which the church is donating as well.

The church’s quilt project began a half-century ago in the home of Rae Gullion, who remains an active member. The current group also includes Sharon Rile, Donna Schledewitz, Bonnie Johnson, Carla Jensen, Tamela Thompson and Arta Sonneman.

The 134 quilts are a high-water mark for the group and 14 more than were completed in 2018.

Half of the quilts will remain in the local community this year for the first time. Donations will be made to the North Platte Public Schools District, for students in need, as well as the North Platte Care Center and the city’s Ready to Serve Volunteer Program to be given to senior citizens.

The remaining quilts will be sent to the ELCA’s Nebraska Synod to be shipped to places in need throughout the world, along with the school, adult and baby care packages. There are roughly 50 of each of the care packages.

“This year, we were talking more about the needs in our community,” Jensen said.

The women also hand-sewed the backpacks, which were filled with pens, pencils, notebooks and other basic school materials.

The adult health kits have a comb, soap and nail clippers wrapped in a towel, and the baby kits include a sweatshirt, pajamas, diapers and soap wrapped in a blanket.

Materials for all three kits were purchased and donated by members of the church’s congregation.

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