By Celine Klosterman
How many quilts, children’s clothes, bags and accessories can be sewn from 9,000 pounds of fabric scraps?
Members of St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols hope to find out. Catholics are reaching out to churches of various denominations to help make use of a surprisingly large donation of cloth leftover from the production of Land’s End clothing. The fabric was donated to the parish through the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse in New Holstein, Wis., which receives leftover goods from national retailers and ships the items to missions, charities and people in need worldwide.
St. Joseph’s received nearly 300 boxes containing 30 pounds each of scraps of denim and dress-pant material last month thanks largely to Lanny Kampfe, a retired endodontist who attends the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City. He traveled to the mission warehouse in early January to deliver Father Mansuetus Setonga’s personal belongings to the warehouse to be sent along with a shipment to Tanzania, the priest’s homeland. A University of Iowa Ph.D. student, Fr. Setonga is in Tanzania to conduct research in micro-finance, raise money to ship a well-drilling rig to the city of Same, develop the Bwiko Small Farm Project and direct pastoral services and development for the Diocese of Same, Kampfe said.
While giving a tour of the Wisconsin warehouse, director Brother Regis Fust, SDS, asked if Kampfe could find a use for some of the 15 tons of fabric scraps Land’s End had donated. So Kampfe took back to Iowa a few samples of hats and children’s clothing that Sisters had sewn from the scraps. Father Bill Kneemiller, pastor of the Hills, Lone Tree and Nichols parishes, then agreed to accept donations of fabric from the warehouse. About a dozen local Catholics had sewn children’s dresses and shorts last year to send to Haiti, where St. Joseph Parish has partnered with Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in the town of Zorange. Seamstresses were looking for another project this year.
Animal feed company Stutsman’s Inc. in Hills agreed to pick up the fabric during a scheduled trip to Wisconsin in late January. A truck returned with so much material that most of the scraps needed to be stored in a Stutsman’s warehouse. Some also is housed in the garage of St. Joseph’s rectory, Fr. Kneemiller said. “It’s pretty amazing. Things happen for God’s purpose, though we may not know what it is.”
The cluster parishes’ Craft Club will meet to sew with the fabric on March 18 from 1-3 p.m. in the basement of St. Joseph Church. People from other churches are welcome to help with projects “from Land’s End to the ends of the world,” Fr. Kneemiller said.
The priest said Catholics in the Davenport Diocese will take some completed clothes to children during a trip later this year with ServeHAITI, a faith-based organization that works with the people of Grand-Bois, Haiti. The Craft Club also is considering making clothes for needy families in the Hills area and inviting residents of Regency Mobile Home Park in Iowa City to help sew. He floated the idea of offering sewing jobs to local people with disabilities as well.
“It will take work, but the possibilities are endless,” said seamstress Lura Loan of St. Mary’s in Lone Tree.
Kampfe said area Presbyterian churches have taken a few boxes of fabric to make quilts and quilt kits, which allow recipients to sew a blanket themselves. One faith-based group plans to create small bags that senior citizens can attach to walkers, he added.
“We have such surplus in our country; we throw away what other people could use. But here, volunteers are using up material that would otherwise go to a dump. It’s interesting how the Lord provides.”
To receive some of the fabric to use for people in need locally or abroad, call St. Joseph Parish at (319) 679-2271.