St. Catherine of Siena School

By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

HORSHAM – One of the last things you would expect eighth-grade boys and girls to be doing is making quilts. That’s what the kids at St. Catherine of Siena School in Horsham do every spring as a service project for a very good cause.

The quilts are bundled up and sent to the St. Stephen’s Quilt Project in Northeast Philadelphia, which in turn distributes them to about 68 hospitals, foster care agencies and social service agencies that serve babies and children at risk.

“We’ve gotten wonderful thank-you notes for them,” said Marge Ayers, who along with Jennifer Kugler teaches eighth grade and oversees the project. {{more}}

Their work is appreciated, and Pat Sharkey of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Glenside, has firsthand experience with the quilts.

When her twin grandchildren were born more than three months premature last November, it was really touch and go. Baby Mary Gladys died at two weeks of age, but Claire Josephine managed to hang in there. Somehow, one of the St. Catherine students heard about her, and although their quilts are normally sent on to the St. Stephen’s Quilt Project, it was decided to send Claire Josephine a pretty green and pink quilt.

“I just think it is absolutely wonderful,” said Sharkey, who visited St. Catherine School just to let the students know how important these quilts are for the children and their families.

While making the quilts takes up to six weeks of volunteer work after school, it is one of several service projects the students will perform during the year, according to Ayers. All the grades have projects, and among others done by the eighth graders was a letter-writing project to families who had lost a loved one. Another involved making ornaments for the Holy Innocents Mass with the names of children on them.

As for the quilt project, 34 kids were involved, Ayers said, and some families brought in sewing machines and a machine was also donated by the local Wal-Mart. Because young teens usually don’t know how to sew quilts, mothers, grandmothers and aunts volunteered to show them how it was done.

The students were a bit confused at first, and the guys didn’t know what they were doing, according to eighth-grader Matt Giorgio. But it worked out in the end, and “we were kind of excited to make the quilts for the children,” he said. “It’s nice that they go to kids who need them.”

Eighth-grader Megan Lasond said she enjoyed working with her friends on something that can make a difference; and quilting, with the various designs involved, she discovered, is something like a math project. “We put a lot of work into it, sewing with love for babies in need,” she said. “It was great to see how we can benefit someone else.”

In all, the St. Catherine students made 13 quilts, and all but the one given to Claire Josephine Sharkey were delivered to Carolyn Boxmeyer at the St. Stephen’s Quilt Project.

Boxmeyer has been involved with the project for the past 20 years, originally as the local coordinator for ABC Quilts, a nonprofit which operated nationally. When ABC disbanded she virtually single-handed kept the program going locally, operating out of space donated by the church. Through quilts sewn by volunteers at churches, schools and other organizations she has been able to supply approximately 1,000 quilts a year for babies and children at risk through hospitals and social service agencies.

It is difficult to keep the project going, but the obvious appreciation shown by people like Pat Sharkey makes it all worthwhile for her.

For more information on the St. Stephen’s Quilt Project, call 215-333-8833

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.