Ornate, handmade quilts were on display across the room during November’s Heart of Ohio Quilters Guild meeting, while the women who painstakingly crafted them over days, weeks and months presented their work to other local quilters. 

One by one, members came forward while wearing their hand-quilted name tags to present their works of art to the guild. They displayed quilts that were gifts for family members, commemorations of loss and donations for local charities

“I made quilts after my daughter’s death,” explained guild member Renee Lawrence, from Hanover. “I was sitting next to a lady at a grief meeting and she said she was a quilter, and I said, ‘Oh, I like quilting.’ One thing led to another, and now I’m here.” 

Renee Lawrence started quilting after her daughter passed away years ago. Credit: Noah Fishman

Many of the quilters at the guild use their craft to help those in need, guild member Gail Irwin said.

Her quilts, Irwin explained, were not just personal projects. Many of her quilts are for Hugs From the Heart, a quilt philanthropy program started by Heart of Ohio quilters about 30 years ago. 

“We give [quilts] to people that are having a hard time as comfort,” Irwin said during the Nov. 14 meeting. “We don’t always know who is receiving it, but we do get thank-you notes.” 

In 2017, Irwin said the group donated seven quilts to victims of the Kirkersville shooting in Licking County, where the chief of the Kirkersville Police Department and two nursing home employees were killed by a gunman. The group gave several blankets to the late chief’s wife, who was pregnant with their seventh child, and another to the son of one of the victims. Each quilt was adorned in hearts “to remind recipients they are cared about and loved,” Heart of Ohio Quilters said. 

The organization launched in 1990 and officially became a guild in 1991, according to guild president Karen Bergeron. Currently, the group boasts about 100 members, and hosts workshops, classes and shows in addition to their various charity projects like the Hugs from the Heart program. 

Each year, the guild hosts a charity quilt show at Granville’s Bryn Du Mansion, where guild members donate three quilts apiece and can sell items as a fundraiser. 

“It gets a little hectic in the space” during the fundraiser, quilter Marty Warthman said. “We raised about $4,000 this year.” 

Quilters can show off their work during a show-and-tell portion of Heart of Ohio meetings. Credit: Noah Fishman

Bergeron said she “got the bug” for quilting about 32 years ago after a lifetime of sewing. 

“Between actual quilts and quilting projects, [I’ve completed] probably close to 200,” she said. 

Bergeron helps organize the guild meetings and brings in professional speakers like Tami Pfeil, who spoke at the November meeting. 

At the next meeting on Dec. 19, quilters will be able to present their “challenge” projects and participate in a gift exchange just in time for the holidays. 

Noah Fishman writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of the Denison University Journalism Program, which is funded in part by the Mellon Foundation and donations from readers.