‘Sew Sew Ladies’ stitch together a community

Don and Carolyn Jilovec of Mount Vernon display a quilt the Sew Sew Ladies created for them after they lost everything in a house fire.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

MECHANICSVILLE — When their home of more than 50 years caught fire during a snowstorm last December, Don and Carolyn Jilovec had no time to collect photos and keepsakes. “We grabbed our coats, our car keys and my purse and dialed 911 on the way out,” Carolyn recalled. “Before we got out, the house was filled with smoke.”

The couple lost everything in the fire, which firefighters believe started in the attic. “The only thing standing was the chimney,” Carolyn said, noting that she broke her hip during the escape.

The “Sew Sew Ladies” from St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville offered warmth and comfort to the grieving couple by making and hand delivering a king-size quilt, along with a plate of cookies, to the Jilovecs’ new home in rural Mount Vernon. The Jilovecs are not Catholic but knew the women and enjoyed the visit. “The quilt was absolutely beautiful; I couldn’t believe it!,” Carolyn said. “We will be so warm this winter.” The gesture warmed the couple’s hearts, too. “We are lucky to live in a small community where there are so many good people who are willing to help,” Carolyn said.

Members of the “Sew Sew Ladies” of St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville.

The Sew Sew Ladies have been stitching with love for about 40 years. Members meet on Wednesday mornings in the parish’s fellowship hall to make quilts, lap robes, catheter bag covers, wheelchair/walker totes and pillowcases. The women deliver the items to local nursing homes, veterans’ homes, hospice centers, Camp Courageous and the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The women call ahead to see what items residents and participants need. “We give them out to anyone who needs one,” said longtime member Evelyn Walshire.

The ladies welcome newborns in the parish with baby blankets and recently honored the oldest veteran at St. Mary with a patriotic quilt. They also look for unmet needs in the wider Mechanicsville community. Recipients “don’t have to be Catholic,” Evelyn said.

The nine group members usually work together on the larger items. They have created about 35 quilts in the past six months using a mix of donated and new materials. Group members pay for most of the materials out of pocket but occasionally do quilt raffles to offset costs.

Evelyn said she loves the camaraderie of the group. “We enjoy working together… it’s kind of like a family.”

“I love being in the group,” said longtime member Nancy Walshire. “I love visiting with everybody and seeing them outside of (Mass).”

Jo Ellen Cook joined the group after retiring a couple years ago. “I was looking so forward to joining this group. I’ve become obsessed with quilting now,” she said with a laugh.

Janet Dohmen joined around the same time, though she had no experience quilting. “Now I’ve made 15 quilts in my home” in addition to helping make items with the Sew Sew Ladies.

“I like helping people, and this is one way we can do that,” said member Sadie Stabenow. Donna Robinson, whose mother and aunts started the Sew Sew Ladies, is a new addition to the group. “God told us to share our talents in whatever ways we can.” Making quilts is a way to care for and share with people in need, she believes. It “feels good and I’m excited to see where the quilts go next.”

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