Apparel Construction teacher Janel Cates, with the help of her students, is bringing hope to those in need by sewing quilts for them. Every year, her classes have sewn quilts for the homeless in the area. Next week, her first semester classes will be donating five more.
The twin-bed sized quilts were sewn by her students for extra credit. Cates originally came up with this idea as a way for her students to better manage their class time. However, she also wanted the quilts to be worth more than just a grade for her students, so she decided to donate them to Feed the People Ministries, a non-profit out of Blue Springs, MO, at the end of each semester.
“I think it’s probably one of the best things that I’ve had as far as classroom management,” Cates said. “Everybody has something to work on, and it has a purpose and a meaning.”
Throughout the semester, students cut up old fabric scraps into identical squares. They collected the squares throughout the year and at the end of the semester, Cates held an old-fashioned quilting bee with her students. Quilting bees were nineteenth-century social events where friends came together to sew quilts. They took all of the collected squares and sewed them into five quilts; each of which were comprised of around 24 squares.
“It was cool because [we] didn’t have to do this, but all of us wanted to,” freshman Elle Angelo said. “It was nice to know that we were doing something that helped other people because sewing just for ourselves was not a big deal.”
Cates made sure not to add “Made by Shawnee Mission East” or any kind of mark – she feels that the quilts are her students’ gifts to the people in need and a signature is unnecessary.
Cates then brought them home to hold until winter. This week, she will deliver them to her friend and founder of Feed the People Ministries, Jerry Whisler.
Through Feed the People, Whisler and his volunteers prepare and deliver meals, provide basic necessities and help offer recovery programs to struggling people. Every winter, Cates has donated her quilts to Feed the People, and Whisler has cautiously selected people who he believes are deserving to receive the quilts.
“They’re such beautiful quilts,” Whisler said. “When we are handing [them] out, we’re being selective so we give it to somebody who will really appreciate them knowing that they are being made by people just for them.”
The people who receive the quilts are either living in cold shelters, crammed cars or on the streets. According to Whisler, they feel depressed, humiliated and hopeless, unable to overcome their hardships. Whisler believes that these quilts will “help encourage them and give them that bit of hope to pick themselves up out of whatever is happening” and lead them on a path of recovery.
“It touches their lives,” Whisler said. “When they get something like that, just knowing that somebody cares for them that much and thinks about them personally helps them.”
This semester, Cates’s new classes have already began working on more quilts. She expects to sew five more by the end of this semester, and they will be donated to Feed the People next winter.