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Sewing group keeps orphans warm

Group already sent 3,000 quilts to Africa
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A local church group is sending 360 quilts to an area of over 10,000 African orphans today. The Sewers & Rippers are a quilting group that meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday at the Auburn Grace Community Church. Over the last nine years the group has sewn almost 3,400 quilts, 3,000 of which have been sent to orphans in Africa through the HEART organization and Village Care International, both Auburn-based organizations, according to Rhoda Staurseth, Sewers & Rippers chairwoman. The group has also donated quilts to other charity causes such as the families involved in the 49 Fire last August, Staurseth said. Staurseth said the group is proud of its annual donations to African children. “It saves orphans’ lives,” she said. “They get so cold that many children die. It’s just our joy. We just have a great time because we want to serve God.” Members of the group don’t have to attend the church, and more than 30 children are involved in a Junior Sewers & Rippers group, which is including 36 quilts in this year’s donation, Staurseth said. Staurseth said her three grandchildren started the junior group six years ago, and it has grown substantially. “Friends of theirs said, ‘Oh, that’s such a good idea. Will you make a Junior Sewers & Rippers so we can come?’” Staurseth said. Auburn resident Dean Becker, 13, said he’s been working with the junior group for five years. “I wasn’t really sure that I really wanted to (participate), but my mom said I really should,” Dean said. “I tried it for the first year and decided to go back the next year. I just thought it was pretty fun.” Dean said there are several reasons he enjoys being a part of the project. “I like designing,” he said. “I like putting different colors and stuff together, making different patterns. I think it’s really cool that I get to help, maybe even to save a life. It’s a good way to give back to the community, the world.” Dean said he also wants to clear up a misconception about quilting. “Some people think quilting is just a woman’s thing or a girl’s thing, but it can be anybody’s,” he said. Opal Jamison, who helped found the Sewers & Rippers, said the group is completely independent and doesn’t rely on funding from the church or other organizations. “Village Care is (the program) we work (with),” Jamison said. “We completely work on our own. We raise our own money at the end of the year with the craft fair of things the ladies make.” Staurseth said there are about 35 women who participate in the group. “We started in Rhoda’s living room and dining room,” she said. Jamison said the hours of quilting are all worth it when the group receives photographs of the children getting their quilts. “The smiles really just make it all worthwhile,” she said. Auburn resident Linda Glenwinkle, whose husband, David, started Village Care International, said each quilt is special to the child who receives it. “They get cold at night and they just don’t have blankets, clothes,” Glenwinkle said. “By giving each child a quilt, they have something that is their own possession.” Glenwinkle said each quilt sewn by a Junior Sewers & Rippers member includes a photograph of and note from the child who sewed it. Staurseth said she has been told there are still many more children who need quilts. “They tell us there are still 7,000 kids we need to sew for,” she said. “We’ll never make it, but we are sure trying.” Glenwinkle said that number comes from just one area in Kenya called Kisumu, which consists of 38 communities of over 10,000 orphans. The group donates quilts twice a year, and Staurseth said the goal of the program is simple. “It’s a mission to let these kids know Jesus loves them, they’re not alone in the world,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com