Beloved Community: Celebrating the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Making Disaster Relief Quilts with Students and Faculty at Dartmouth

h1 Monday, January 28th, 2013 at 10:23 am

Beloved Community - quilters

A Dartmouth student pins the edges of a Quilt with the help of Irma Graf from OSLC and Ulla Sonnerup, a regular quilting group participant.

Each January, the Dartmouth College community in Hanover, N.H., honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And for the past five years, one way they’ve celebrated Dr. King is through service — by making LWR Quilts.

“Dr. King aspired to better the world, envisioning a land of equality and of benevolence,” says Gina M. D’Andrea-Penna, a student who participated in the service project. “The quilting project relates to his vision and legacy in promoting generosity, particularly toward people who are experiencing troubled times.”

The project takes place in the student center where students, staff and members of the surrounding community are encouraged to drop in when they can. And there’s something for everyone to do, no matter their experience or skill level.

“It was fun that anybody who wished to participate in the quilting was able to contribute in some way,” says D’Andrea-Penna.

The service project is led by the quilting group from Our Savior Lutheran Church (OSLC), also in Hanover. The group is used to engaging people at various levels of skill and experience, which is part of why the group has seen phenomenal growth in its quilting participation over the years.

“We encourage people of all ages to come to quilt: men, boys and girls, families, older folks. They don’t need to have any experience. We teach them,” says Susan Ferraro, the parish administrator at OSLC.

OSLC’s quilting ministry started out donating about 15 LWR Quilts a year, but in the last eight years they’ve donated more than 1,600 through the success of semi-monthly sewing days and special “quilting marathons” that drew participation from outside the church.

Dartmouth student sews a beautiful quilt top as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities
Nancy Bloomfield, Dartmouth Class of 99, and Danra Kazenski sew a beautiful quilt top as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities.

It was this kind of community outreach that inspired a partnership with Dartmouth College.

Pastors Susan and Michael Thomas are co-pastors at OSLC and serve as Lutheran campus ministers at Dartmouth. In 2008, they reached out to Kurt Nelson, then a campus chaplain working with the college’s William Jewett Tucker Foundation, which provides service opportunities for Dartmouth students. Together, they organized the first ever quilting marathon at Dartmouth in 2009. During the quilting marathon, held as a part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day festivities, students completed 11 quilt tops, which the OSLC group then completed.

And students continue to enjoy the service project each year. Last year the Men of Color Alliance at Dartmouth chose quilting as their annual service project; this year a sorority did the same.

On January 21, the day of this year’s quilting marathon, at least 40 people could be found participating in the project. By the end of the day, there were 19 Quilts and several more quilt tops completed!

The students appreciated the opportunity for service and could see the connection between quilting and Dr. King’s message of unity and care for those less fortunate.

Shianne Sebastian, a student and recipient of a scholarship in honor of Dr. King, says, “I believe that this project really relates to Dr. King’s Legacy because he stood for giving back to your community.”

Pastor Susan Thomas sees quilting as a unique and fitting way to carry forward Dr. King’s vision. “It’s been inspiring to see the students, in particular, connecting to this hands-on work,” she says, “The ‘beloved community’ Dr. King spoke so eloquently about is certainly a global one!
Want to learn more about our quilting ministry? Check this story on the LWR blog!

Story written by Nikki Massie, Lutheran World Relief.

View the January 25, 2013 issue of Lutheran World Relief eNews

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