For half a century, the Comforters of Palestine have met once a week, patiently sewing dozens of colorful bedspreads for needy children every year. Tuesday, the group is donating 33 comforters to students in the Palestine Independent School District.
Counselors at each campus identify children to receive the comforters before Christmas. Carol Herring, PISD’s school-community liaison who is picking up the comforters today, says families are very appreciative and impressed by the handmade designs.
“I think it’s a very worthwhile program; it generates a lot of warmth in most people’s hearts,” Herring says. “People are always in awe of their craft and how well they do.”
However, the voluntary task that used to be friendly and joyful became far lonelier since the pandemic began, with Gaye Ann Brandt making many of the comforters by herself.
Brandt knows her efforts are making a difference in some children’s lives, but she misses the camaraderie and contributions of the group’s other three members, who are staying home to avoid COVID-19 infection. She is hoping new volunteers will step up to help.
“I miss my friends who help me because there’s a lot of chatter,” Brandt says. “I could use help from people who can design and sew quilt tops.”
Traditionally a group activity, quilting is an enduring folk art. The Palestine Comforters are also making quilts, but call them comforters due to some differences.
Both methods involve arranging and piecing fabric scraps, often in creative designs. Both consist of three layers, a top, pieced layer, the inner filling, and a bottom layer.
The two methods differ, however, in their so-called finishing. After Brandt sews the edges, she places the comforter on a raised frame then sews long rows of individual knots to hold the layers together.
Brandt says the comforters are quicker and easier to complete than traditional quilts, which require far more sewing.
Brandt has sewn quilts and comforters for decades. She began sewing quilts for each child in her home-based daycare in Colorado more than 30 years ago, and hasn’t stopped since.
The group’s work is worthy, Brandt says. She continues because she wants to have a positive impact on others’ lives.
“Sometimes kids need a little extra because they’re having a tough time in life,” Brandt says. “It’s such an important thing to give back to your world and those you can touch.”
The Comforters meet at First Christian Church 10 a.m. to 12 noon., every Tuesday. For information, call the church office at 903-729-5440.