Jo Anna Pearson grew up as a foster child, so she knows the feeling of arriving at a new home with no possessions.
Seven years ago, she began making “quillows” – a quilt that folds into a pillow – to donate to foster children where she lives in Columbus, Ga.
“This is something they can have with them in their first few days in a new home,” Pearson said. “I know if I’d had that, I would have felt more secure.”
Pearson brought her love of quilting and helping others to the Mount Saint Joseph Conference and Retreat Center the week of Feb. 22-26, 2020, to be part of her first Quilting Friends.
“My friend Linda Jones has been coming for four years. I came to a Runaway Quilters and she invited me to this. I’m addicted,” Pearson said.
The Quilting Friends come to Maple Mount each February and use donated fabric to make beautiful quilt tops and other items that they leave for the Ursuline Sisters. The tops are machine quilted and then sold to benefit the Ursuline Sisters’ ministries, including in fundraising events like the Quilt Raffle that is coming up Sept. 13.
Using her love of quilting to benefit others keeps Pearson very busy. Her friends in the Gala Quilt Guild teamed up with an Alabama group of quilters and a church group to make quilts for the victims of the March 4, 2019 tornado in Beauregard, Ala.
“We presented them in January. We had over 100 quilts,” Pearson said. “Not one person who lost a home went without a quilt. They had pictures of houses on them, so the quilts looked like a city. People were in tears when we gave them the quilts.”
Pearson felt right at home helping at the Mount. “I’m addicted, I’ll be back next year,” she said.
Being “addicted” to quilting was a common theme from both newcomers and veterans of the Quilting Friends.
“It’s a good addiction. It’s like a disease but you don’t want to get rid of it,” said Faye Kirtley of Bardstown, Ky., who has been a Quilting Friend for at least 18 years.
“I started quilting in 1983 when my mother died. I felt a loss, then I met these quilters,” Kirtley said. “I wanted what they had. I grew up with six brothers, my quilting friends are my sisters.”
She was sewing near her longtime friends Carolyn Salsman and Merline Long, who she and Salsman met at the Quilting Friends in 2003.
“This is something to do for the sisters, they do so much for others,” Long said. “This is a special experience. We have friendships here.”
“This is charity work where we really like what we’re doing,” Salsman said.
Kelli Verzak, from Hendersonville, Tenn., attended her first Quilting Friends and will definitely be back.
“My neighbor Sheila Gravely has been coming for years, she invited me, and I could finally come,” Verzak said. “I’m having a great time, there are a lot of talented ladies here.”
She mostly makes Christmas quilts and Quilts of Valor for veterans. She was piecing some quilt tops this week.
“I’m loving it. The women are so sweet.”
Cindy Thompson is also a first timer, coming from her home near Memphis, Tenn., at the invitation of her friend Cindy Wilson.
“I went to Ursuline Academy in St. Louis, so I wanted to do something for the sisters,” Thompson said.
She finished a table runner and was working on a baby quilt on Feb. 25.
“I’m enjoying myself. I love the camaraderie,” she said. “I love to see what other people are working on.”
On the afternoon of Feb. 25, some of the members brought their completed quilt tops and other items to the Motherhouse small dining room so that sisters and employees on campus could enjoy them.