Story of York County’s Samaritan Quilt Ministry continues 40 years and 40,000 quilts later

The locally woven quilts, which go to people in need around the world, are made possible by volunteers and donations from individuals and businesses.

>By Our York Media

Each Monday morning, tucked away in the basement of Zion Lutheran Church in Glen Rock, a team of women (and sometimes a fellow or two) irons, cuts, pins, and sews quilt after quilt after quilt.

They call themselves the Samaritan Quilt Ministry, and they’ve quietly woven almost 40,000 quilts over the past 40 years.

“They might not all be masterpieces,” says Sandy Fair, one of the Ministry’s volunteers, but each of the 60-by-80-inch, three-layer quilts serves as a reminder of how a local effort can go a long way.

Twice a year, the Ministry drops off hundreds of finished quilts at the Lutheran World Relief Distribution Center in New Windsor, Maryland. From there, the blankets make their journey to the needy around the world.

Wherever there is a need – from weather events to illnesses – the quilts go. They’re used as blankets, tent roofs, and ground covers.

Piecing together the Ministry’s history

The group started around 1976 or 77 in the basement of one of the founder’s homes.

Co-founder Norma Day, 85, still runs the show. And though Norma’s husband, Donald, swore he’d never go near a sewing machine, he sews most days now, too.

Helen Wills holds the honor of the group’s oldest active member. At 95, she still shows up each week to piece together quilts.

And from the Ministry’s start, numerous residents of the South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom have done their part to support the cause.

Patchwork donations from the community

The ministry has no budget. It survives solely on donations from individuals and businesses.

Furniture Finesse is one of those businesses. The York, Pa., furniture store shares fabric books and pieces of discontinued furniture fabric.

“I love that we can give back to the community this way,” says Susie Mummert, owner of Furniture Finesse at 1 W. Market St. “It’s important that we work together to help each other.”

While many materials come in locally, Sandy’s amazed at where they receive other donations – from the Carolinas to the Midwest.

When it comes to fabric – they’re not picky. They make use of old bedding, tablecloths, curtains, and even sheets.

When the group receives donated blankets and fabrics too nice to cut up for quilts, they take them to the Salvation Army, York Rescue Mission, and the ACCESS-York women’s shelter.

And, of course, the quilters themselves are all volunteers.

Solving the world’s problems one quilt at a time

New members are always welcome, and no sewing experience is required, Sandy says. There’s always ironing, cutting and piecing to be done.

Each Monday morning at 8, about a dozen members congregate at the church to make quilts and gab (naturally).

Some members leave before noon. Some pack a lunch and spend the afternoon sewing. Some, like Sandy, take their work home – sewing for hours each day, especially during the cold weather months.

But the hours Sandy and her fellow sewers spend making quilts is satisfying, she says. It never really feels like work.

“It’s a project we thoroughly enjoy, and it's helping people all around the world to have a better life,” she says.

Periodically, the church recognizes the ministry by draping completed quilts over the pews for Sunday services as a subtle reminder to the congregation of the need for materials and volunteers. There are also three finished quilts hanging in the church – each representing 10,000 completed quilts. A fourth will go up soon.

“We solve a lot of world problems,” Sandy says. “We know what’s going on with everybody’s children.”


Donations needed:

If you’re interested in helping the Samaritans Quilt Ministry, the following items are always in need:

  • Fabric
  • Used sheets
  • Tablecloths
  • Blankets
  • Pillow cases
  • Curtains
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Scissors

Donations can be dropped off 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday at Zion Lutheran Church, 47 Hanover St. in Glen Rock.

To volunteer

The Samaritans Quilt Ministry meets at 8 a.m. every Monday at Zion Lutheran Church, 47 Hanover St. in Glen Rock.

New members are always welcome; no sewing experience is required.

For more information, contact Sandy Fair at 717-235-6657.