Conway Springs: Community Concern helps those in need

Maxine Martin, 99, is one of the original members of Community Concern. Even though she is now blind, she continues to lend a hand with the group’s quilt-making efforts.

By Michelle Leidy-Franklin

Since 1999 a group of local ladies have been meeting in Conway Springs to make knotted quilts for those in need. They call their group Community Concern. Ladies from several church denominations over several local towns meet at the Methodist church in Conway Springs to work together to help the needy.

“We work together and try to put them where they’re needed. We don’t ask any questions,” said founder Mickey Alderdice.

On the second Friday of every month, Community Concern meets around 9 a.m. to get started. They work through the day until about 2 p.m., taking a break for a potluck lunch where they each bring a dish or dessert to share.

Initially the group got together to make baby blankets and lap blankets for locals. They contacted Catholic Charities to see if they would be able to find others who might need the quilts. As word got out, however, other organizations contacted the group for donations. Community Concern also started receiving requests for larger blankets.

“I have always sewed and quilted. I started in grade school. I like to quilt,” said Alderdice.

Maxine Martin is the oldest of the group at 99 and enjoys quilting as well. She used to make quilt tops but has switched to knotting as her sight began to fail.

“I plan to stay until 100. My health is excellent, I just can’t see,” said Martin.

“Her mind is sharp as a tack, but now we sometimes have to show her where to tie the next knot,” said member Sherry Bender.

Marsha Stuhlsatz, left, Joan Hemberger and Lynn Robertsen share work on a quilt at this month’s Community Concern gathering.

Martin and Alderdice have both moved to the Spring View Manor across the street from the Methodist church. Storage for the blankets and materials had to be moved to the church when Martin moved to Spring View. Now the group makes regular donations every couple of months so they will continue to have enough room for storage at the church.

Each month, Community Concern makes between 10 and 20 blankets. Most of the materials are donated to the group, though they typically purchase batting for the quilts. Most of the batting is bought by the group with funds raised during the blanket raffle at the Conway Springs Fall Festival. Donations for fabric squares and thread come from many sources.

“Often when there is a death in the community, their family doesn’t know what to do with the boxes of material their loved one collected, and they bring it to us,” said Dawn Hartman.

Every lady does something a little different to contribute to the process. Some take material home to piece together into patterns, and some come every second Friday to knot the sides and batting together. A couple of the ladies are sewers and finish up the blankets’ edging.

Iris Wagner mans the sewing machine for edging. She has been quilting since high school.

“It is quite an experience to give away these blankets,” said Wagner.

While locals in need have first priority, blankets are distributed to several different locations. Wagner was particularly impressed with Stepping Stones, a program for abused and battered women and children that helps women get back on their feet after surviving domestic abuse.  Catholic Charities distributes blankets to the homeless, the veterans home in Wichita has requested blankets, and Futures in Wellington receives primarily baby blankets.

“If you have a need, I don’t care where it goes, we don’t ask questions. We just want to help,” said Bender.

Iris Wagner finishes the final sewing on the board of a blanket.