By Ashleigh Bugg
At the Julie Valentine Center, a space for children who have survived various forms of abuse, kids are gifted colorful quilts and comforting weighted blankets they may keep as their own. These presents are provided by Peace by Piece, the quilting ministry of Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
“Our group is multi-generational, with a program that includes teaching children interested in learning sewing skills and participating in mission opportunities,” said program founder Deb Blondeau. “And the fellowship and care they provide for one another is remarkable.”
Peace by Piece was started by Blondeau, who recruited friend Linda Carson in 2016, and the group has since engaged up to 18 volunteers. We have eight core members who work faithfully each Tuesday and Wednesday. They partner with a variety of organizations in South Carolina including the Julie Valentine Center, the Greenville Cancer Center, Piedmont Women’s Center and Safe Harbor, a center for survivors of domestic violence. Marietta Quilt and Sew, a local business in Simpsonville, has contributed equipment, materials and volunteers.
Peace by Piece gifts go beyond a simple quilt, pillow case or personal bag. For example, program partners have used the weighted blankets as a therapeutic method to help autistic or anxious participants. Peace by Piece has made port cushions for cancer patients at the local cancer center, and has led the children’s ministry in making them for cancer patients.
Blondeau says the program is also a way to add meaning to homebound and nursing home ministries as well as to support younger people in the community. “We love visiting and meeting with people who need our quilts,” Blondeau said. “We lose sight of the fact that people who are in assisted living and nursing homes like to know that their church values them and loves them. We make a quilt for each new baby, presented at the time of their dedication and will be making quilts for future high school graduates. We want our young people to know that they are important to their church.”
The program will benefit from a CBF Ministries Council Grant, allowing them to grow and expand. “Our group has been using old equipment or very rudimentary equipment,” said Blondeau. “With this grant, we will be able to increase the number, variety and quality of our quilts.” The program will enable us to purchase a larger, more advanced quilting machine which will allow them to vary techniques and complete more in-house quilting. They currently have to pay to send quilts to be finished or must rely on individuals with quilting machines to volunteer to finish them.
They are in the process of adding to their project list a new Community partner, Quilts of Valor, a nonprofit which provides quilts for veterans. “The grant money should help us expand the community we serve,” Blondeau explained.
Blondeau says the ministry not only helps the recipients, but also helps volunteers gain a sense of community. “The ministry is two-fold: It’s not just giving the quilts to other people. We ourselves are a support group for one another,” Blondeau said.
Peace by Piece offers a way to be creative and useful to other people while providing much needed support for retired members as well younger volunteers. “We’ve given people purpose and camaraderie and helped them find friends,” Blondeau said.
According to Blondeau, the program’s replication would benefit other CBF groups, assuming a church or organization has volunteers, sewing and quilting equipment as well as space to work and house equipment. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to sew. We will teach you,” Blondeau said. “If you can sew a straight line, you can learn to quilt.”
Blondeau said the program can also benefit community partners in financial ways. “Some organizations like Safe Harbor can even leverage volunteer hours and log the time volunteers invest in creating these quilts to get grants that fund staff positions,” she said.
According to Blondeau, organizations and the communities they serve will benefit from groups like Peace by Piece. (There are many quilt guilds that do similar work)
“Every time a quilt is made, I pray over it,” Blondeau said. “I say, ‘help this quilt find a person who needs to be happy; help this quilt to find a home.’”
Blondeau explained that the program goes beyond the physical work and materials needed to create the finished product. “It’s not just quilts,” Blondeau said. “It’s the love of the church community that is behind them. The ladies that make these quilts are very loving, resourceful, creative ladies. I am blessed to work with them.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.