Tuesday afternoon light shines through stained glass windows of the St. Jacob United Methodist Church casting colorful shadows on the blankets and supply crates that line the cross adorned pews.
Excited chatter echoes off the walls inside the sanctuary while three crochet hook wielding crafters create gifts for the less fortunate.
The Compassionate Crafters started threading their needles about a year ago when Gail Joyner recruited the members. Gail also coordinated a similar group at the Troy United Methodist Church and wanted to bring the same tender, loving care to St. Jacob.
Now the crafters meet every Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. to crochet and knit security blankets for children in need.
“The goal was to make lap blankets for children in East St. Louis,” said current craft coordinator Mary Beth Broughton.
The initial intention of the group was to send Linus blankets to children in East St. Louis, through a chapter of Project Linus. However, the crafters are now donating their blankets to a home extension program in Edwardsville, which works with the same organization.
Inspired by the blanket-toting Peanuts character, Project Linus is a national organization which donates an average of 350 homemade blankets to children every month.
The operations of the Compassionate Crafters rely on the good hearts and donations from their community. Gail initially bought all of the craft materials to get them started, but now the group will take any and all donations given to them.
So far, the Compassionate Crafters have made about half a dozen completed blankets.
Meet the members
Gail was recently appointed as the pastor of a church in Staunton, the new commitment would mean that she would need to divide her time. After a hard decision, Gail passed the torch to Mary Beth when she decided to leave her fellow crafters about a couple months ago.
Mary Beth accepted the challenge and refused to let their vision die.
“Its just one more ministry that I can put in my hat,” Mary Beth said.
The Compassionate Crafters is one of the three ministries in which Mary Beth participates.
“I feel it is important that we can do God’s ministry,” Mary Beth said. “I’m a firm believer that what we do for others, we do unconditionally with no strings attached.”
The other members in the group are just as dedicated to spreading the love. Jenny Rensing still attended a Compassionate Crafter meeting after breaking her arm earlier in the day.
The third member of the group, Janette Fox, is known as the most active 95-year-old in town and works out at the YMCA two times a week. She is also the group’s light of laughter.
“I thought we should have called it, ‘The Yarn and the Reckless,’ but we already had a name,” Janette said.
Janette joined the crafters without any prior knowledge of crocheting or knitting, but saw the group as an opportunity to socialize while serving a greater cause.
“I didn’t know much when we started, and I still don’t,” she said. “It’s a social day out with the girls.”
The new minister of the church, Clint Benesh, and his wife, Tina, also attend, seeing the meetings as an opportunity to form relationships within their new community.
“Then, we have Barrett,” Mary Beth said.
The Benesh’s 1-year-old, the star of the hour, spreads his smiles through the group. While Barrett might not be able to hold a pair of knitting needles just yet, he provides the group with what the Benesh’s call “interpretive jazz” when he “plays” the piano. Each key he taps brings a smile to his face.
Crafters welcome, seeking quilters
The ambitious members of the group have decided to pursue a daunting task, quilting.
“It’s a whole new project that we will be taking on,” Mary Beth said. “It’s just a matter of us getting off the ground.”
The crafters ask anyone willing to share their quilting experience to join the group, otherwise they will endeavor to teach themselves.
Even if you do not have any experience, joining the group is completely free, no crafting experience is required, and all skills are welcome.
“Anyone is more than welcome to join. There is no charge. Come and do what you do best,” Mary Beth said.
Interested crafters and donors can contact Mary Beth at 618-334-0721, or message the church Facebook page for more information.