By Kara Witherow, Advocate contributor
This Christmas, 172 children will smile a little brighter because of a group of South Georgia quilters.
For 15 years, the Stars and Stripes Quilting Guild has made stockings for children and youth at The Methodist Home. Since 2007, the group of about 25 women has made and given away more than 2,000.
While all the women love to quilt and sew, the stockings are more than just a craft project or hobby. The colorful socks, crafted from festive fabric, are meant to bring joy to children who may not otherwise have much this holiday season.
“We want to make a child happy at Christmas,” said Cindy Waldrop, a member of Hinesville First United Methodist Church. “If we can make a child … a little bit happier at Christmas, that’s something I want to do.”
Each year, members of the Stars and Stripes Quilting Guild make between 150 and 175 stockings. They begin sewing in July to be done by mid-November.
The women, who are from Hinesville, Midway, Ludowici, and the surrounding area, meet once a month to show off their recent projects, discuss new ideas, and work on stocking components.
During the past couple of years when they weren’t able to gather because of the pandemic, Waldrop would meet guild members in parking lots to pass fabric and fully sewn stockings back and forth.
“It was kind of crazy, meeting in parking lots, passing back and forth bundles of fabric, but it was what we had to do.”
Waldrop, whose grandmother quilted, taught herself the art in 1996 when she wanted to make her daughter a quilt to take to college. She’s now been quilting for nearly three decades. Stockings are a simple way to learn the craft, she said.
“Most quilting is straight sewing,” she said. “A big quilt can be intimidating; it can make a new quilter a little apprehensive, but sewing a stocking is a pretty easy way to build your confidence.”
Professional quilter Marsha Cross joined the Stars and Stripes Quilting Guild in the early 1990s to meet other sewers and quilters. At 8 years old she made her first quilt and gave it to her fifth-grade teacher. She now makes them for sick children, children in the foster care system, adults who have lost spouses, and those whose homes and belongings have been damaged or destroyed by fires or hurricanes.
She finds it fulfilling to use her talent to give back to others.
“It gives me joy to know that I’m doing community service,” she said. “It is very satisfying to be able to help people.”
Thanksgiving week, the 172 stockings were placed on Hinesville First United Methodist Church’s pews and prayed over by the church’s 60 preschoolers. Afterwards, Rev. Tony Caldwell and his wife drove to Macon and delivered them to The Methodist Home where other groups and ministries will fill them with gifts.
Alison Evans, The Methodist Home’s president and CEO, said the handmade stockings help show Christ’s love.
“These special treasures remind our boys and girls that people think about them, pray for them, provide for them in some of the most heartfelt ways,” she said. “We are humbled and grateful for these gifts of love.”
Waldrop, Cross, and the rest of the Stars and Stripes Quilting Guild just want the children to know they’re cared for, by God and a few strangers in South Georgia.
“We want them to have something that reminds them that there are people who love them,” Waldrop said.