One Saturday around this time for the past 14 years, local men and women of faith gather to make sleeping bags for the homeless.
Coordinators Ida Pendleton and Billy Watrous thrive on guiding the sensational results of this effort year to year.
This Ecumenical project includes members of , where this year's gathering took place, and the . Each year a different church hosts the project which began around 1997.
Jackie Padilla of St. Mary's, says “It's very rewarding to participate, I know that what we do provides warmth to those in desperate need in these harsh New England winters.”
And though called “ugly quilts” they are far from that. The outer shells are large patchwork covers sewn together ahead of time by the seamstresses in each congregation. This shell gets laid out and then three layers of donated blankets are placed on top, and the shell is then pulled over that layer.
Here is where the work begins: long needles with bright thread are pre-threaded and stuck into bars of soap. The volunteers then take the needled thread and stitch down into the layers and back up. Two knots are tied and the process begins again about four inches down.
This process does not require much skill. Around the edge of the table sit men and women, young and old. Some of the women have been involved for the entire 14 years.
Evelyn Scaglione says, “It's so nice that all the local churches come together. You get to meet people and socialize. You realize you have more in common than not.”
The project takes all day. Coffee and treats are available, as is a generous lunch of soups and sandwiches. Then the process begins again sustained by new and old friendships. All in all, eight bags are donated to St. Vincent DePaul in Middletown, where the homeless seek shelter and warmth.
The quilts and other items including hats, gloves, flannel shirts, shower curtains used as ground cloths, and toiletries are donated. What is not wrapped up in a sleeping bag gets donated there as well.
This good Samaritan effort does not seem like anything compared with the love it provides. As each bag is completed and tied up with old ties, all the volunteers gather, hold hands or touch each others shoulders and together read the Roll-Up Prayer: Lord, take the work of our hands and bless it; and in thy name let the person that receives this gift know that he or she is loved. Amen