Comfort and warmth in homemade quilts Handiwork donated to needy, ill infants

November 23, 1998|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

As more and more of her handiwork was taped to the church gymnasium walls, Argyroula Anderson was taken aback.

The finished quilts she and others were making Saturday were destined to comfort babies who were abandoned, or born with human immunodeficiency virus, fetal alcohol syndrome or drug addiction.

She knew that, but the scale of the enterprise became apparent. She and her fellow volunteers had produced dozens of colorful quilts.

Each would find a needy child. Every single one.

"I never knew there could be so many children suffering like that," whispered Anderson, a Baltimore retiree. "Are there? I can't believe it."

For seven hours, Anderson and 60 other women of the Philoptochos Society of the downtown Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation sewed, ironed, pinned and cut fabric.

By late afternoon, they were near their target of producing 50 hand-sewn coverlets for ABC Quilts, a New Hampshire nonprofit group that encourages such quiltathons. The quilts will be distributed in the Baltimore area.

"So often there are children who need something," said Bess Stamas of Towson, co-organizer of the event. "A little quilt can be a comfort."

Stamas had heard about ABC Quilts for years from a sister in New Jersey whose church was active in the organization. Now seemed like the time for the women of Philoptochos -- Greek for "Friends of the Poor" -- to join the New Jersey group.

The volunteers began in April to organize, collecting bolts of fabrics. They spent hours cutting squares, packing them with instructions on how to assemble.

Not everyone, the women conceded, is blessed with great sewing skills. Those who couldn't sew, pinned. Those who couldn't pin, cut fabric or ironed.

"We did it. We did it," said Sophia Krome of Owings Mills, a self-described nonsewer, holding up the Mother Goose coverlet she helped create. "This is the first quilt that required 10 people to put together."

Across the noisy room, Penny Frankos Rey was busy checking on the work of others. The retired city teacher took up quilting five years ago, which qualified her as something of an expert.

The Rev. Constantine Monios, dean of the cathedral, was enlisted. He helped produce a quilt displaying Noah, his ark and his animals.

"Good job on your first," said Rey.

"Notice she didn't say I made a quilt," Monios observed. "She said I made my first quilt. I think she just told me there's more work to do."

Amen to that thought, says Ellen Ahlgren of Northwood, N.H., who created ABC Quilts 10 years ago. Since then, her organization has produced more than 350,000 quilts for babies in every state, the retired teacher said.

"Our first mission is making the quilts, but our second is educating people," Ahlgren said. "I feel like we've only just scratched the surface."

Kerry Agathoklis of Timonium, president of the cathedral women's group, said she expected quilt-making to become a church tradition.

Although none of the women will meet the babies who receive their handiwork, the underlying message seemed as clear and as old as the textile art itself: We love you.

Pub Date: 11/23/98

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