St. Francis quilters pass on ‘a little bit of love’

WALHALLA — Virginia B. “Jenny” Grobusky wanted to add some color and warmth to the lives of hurricane refugees from the Gulf Coast, so she got a bunch of quilters together and started working. Nearly two dozen women from western Oconee County made 136 quilts by hand in a two-month blitz.

“They worked every Wednesday from 9 in the morning until three, starting the week after Labor Day,” said Sister Joan Kobe. “It was an engineering feat.”

Sister Kobe, a Daughter of Wisdom sister, is the Hispanic minister at St. Francis Church, where the sewing endeavor took place.

Some of the quilts, filled with soft batting and double-sided in colorful patterns, come in adult bed sizes, others in children’s sizes. They are rich in textures and hues, sometimes whimsical in design, sometimes elegant. All are precisely stitched and are as sturdy as they are stylish.

The ladies are giving the quilts away to evacuees from the storm. There is only one stipulation to their gifts.

“The quilt must become the property of the person it’s given to,” Grobusky said. “If your house was flattened and you didn’t have a thing to put over you, wouldn’t you like to have a little bit of love?”

That love is displayed in the finished products. The quilters donated all their labor and parishioners donated materials, so many thousands of dollars worth of quilts ended up costing hurricane victims and their patrons nothing.

The St. Francis Altar Society purchased and installed shelving in a room in order to store swatches and batting and thread. A supplier for Grobusky’s quilting club, The Stitching Friends, heard about the project and sent a case of premier batting to the club for free. Since the women were willing to volunteer all that work, he told Grobusky, donating material was the least he could do.

For the quilters, it was more than just work.

“We’ve had fun doing it,” said Grobusky, who was married at the altar of St. Francis Church in 1944.

One of her fellow quilters, Ellen Babbitt, said that she actually looked forward to the hours spent in the functional but spare church hall.

“It got me out of the house and was a form of stress relief, especially since we’re all good friends,” Babbitt said.

The lady quilters took some of their handiwork to the Salvation Army for distribution and some to local churches that are sponsoring evacuees in the area. A few remaining quilts are earmarked for other victims of natural disasters.

The victims’ faces light up when they receive these beautiful craft works, Grobusky said. It is such a gratifying achievement for both donor and recipient, the ladies plan to start another quilting project in the new year.