Quilts to warm hearts of homeless

By Regina Villiers. Originally published March 31, 1993 in The Suburban Life, added November 2022.

Patchwork  quilts possess almost magical qualities that spawn illusions.

There’s the illusion of warmth. A patchwork quilt always seems to keep you warmer than a blanket, even if it doesn’t.

Then there’s the illusion that anyone cnl make one, and that everyone should.  My friend, Louise, has carried this illusion in her head for years, saying that “next year” she’s going to make a quilt.

But Marie Tscalis, who owns the Creative Cottage in Madeira, doesn’t deal in illusions. She deals in realities.

Back  in the winter,  Marie started thinking about the reality of how cold the world is for homeless people. She decided to do something about it, in her own way. Since she teaches quilting classes at her shop, she decided to organize a “Quilt for the Homeless” day.

Her idea . was  to  bring volunteers together on a Saturday to work and sew together, as in an old-fashioned quilting bee. She advertised for volunteers, and over 200 people showed up on a cold January day at St. Gertrude’s Church. They came bringing sewing machines, fabrics, threads, ironing boards. Some even brought their husbands to help out.

A lot of cutting and sewing went on that day, and at the end of the day, close to a hundred quilt tops had been made.

The quilts were made using the strip-piecing method and in assembly line fashion. Some people cut; some stitched; some ironed; and some helped out anywhere they could.

The quilts were all made from the Log Cabin pattern, and variations of it.

So many quilts were started that day, that another session was scheduled for the following Saturday to continue work on the project.

Phil Beckmann, who lives in Madeira and owns a custom drapery manufacturing business,  Drapery Stitch, in Tusculum, donated. his plant and facilities as the site for the second quilting day.

Two of his workers, Sylvia Corcoran and Rhonda Sebastian, donated their time and effort at their sewing machines for the day. Phil spent the day there too, overseeing the project. He also donated fabrics and batting for the quilts.

Stearns and Foster, makers of Mountain Mist, also donated battings. There were many donations from all over. Donations of fabric and checks poured in.

The Indian Hill High School Key  Club  donated  a  large amount. Jeannette Wilson, an employee  of  Sam’s  Club Wholesalers, sat  up a box in Sam’s and collected over $300.

But the most important donation of all came from people who volunteered their time and their hearts, as they stitched and fashioned the quilts.

The volunteers came, not just from Madeira,  but from all around the Cincinnati area.

Rachna Mistry, a teenager from Indian Hill, worked both quilting days to fulfill her community service requirements for graduation.

Elizabeth Bell came all the way from Delhi to work.

Leroy and Jackie Kuhl, a husband and wife team from Northern Kentucky, became so engrossed in the project that they worked eight-hour days on it, till the entire lot of quilts were quilted and finished. Leroy worked right along with the women quilters, doing everything they did, including the actual quilting.

Many Madeira volunteers worked on the first quilting day, and a few of them continued throughout.

Two of the most dedicated Madeira quilters were Lisa Gallenstein and her daughter, Julie  Potluri.  Both  are  experienced  seamstresses,  and both were moved by the feeling behind the project.

Two other Madeira quilters, Betty Schmid and her sister, Margaret Parks, also had strong feelings about the quilting. “It was so much fun working with people who knew what they were doing and sharing ideas,” Betty said. “So much togetherness for a common cause.”

Most of the actual quilting was done in the workrooms of the Creative  Cottage,  during  the weeks  following  the  quilting days. This was done by a small band of staunch workers, headed up by Shirley Burse, and Leroy and Jackie Kuhl.

When it was all over, 115 quilts had been finished. These were donated to the Drop Inn Center Shelter House in downtown Cincinnati and to Haven House in Hamilton.

Marie Tscalis plans to do the project again next January, and she  is  already lining up volunteers and materials. “January is a good time to quilt,” she said, “a good time to give warmth.”

Meanwhile, Lisa Gallenstein and Julie Porluri aren’t waiting till next January. Both are at work now on quilts of their own, for their own beds.

And even I have caught the quilting bug myself. I’m suffering from an illusion that I, too, can make a quilt. Not “next year,” but right now.

Regina Villiers is a writer who has lived in Madeira for 25 years. Her column appears regularly in the Suburban Life-Press. If you have an idea or comment, you may write to her in care of Press Community  Newspapers,  9121 Union Cemetery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45249.