Quilters Share Talent with EveryStep Hospice

The history of quilting may date back to the Egyptians and one of the earliest surviving quilts in the world, made in Sicily in 1360, is in a London museum. Quilting began primarily to provide protection and warmth. Today, quilts serve a functional purpose, but also symbolize comfort, safety and love.

The quilters at Trinity Christian Church embody all these traits.

Mary Boswell of Lamoni is part of the quilters group at Trinity Christian Church in rural Decatur. Growing up on a farm, Mary loved being outside on the tractor. In high school home economics class, she had to sew an apron, and then a dress. “I’m surprised I passed!” says Mary. “Sewing of any kind was certainly not my thing!”

Married out of high school, she and her husband moved to Oklahoma where her husband attended college and enlisted in the Army. “Somewhere along the line, I tried my hand at quilting,” says Mary. “Our oldest son was diagnosed as diabetic at age 11 and I spent a lot of time in the hospital. To pass the time, I hand-quilted and nurses would often come by to see the progress and admire my work.”

Years passed and it became difficult for Mary to quilt by hand, so she purchased a long arm quilting machine. By then, Mary and her family were back in Iowa and she met an elderly lady at Trinity Christian Church who made quilts and sent them to a home for single mothers in Colorado.

When the elderly woman passed away, Mary took on the quilting ministry and worked alone until 2020, when her friend Debbie Young joined her, followed in 2022 by Barb Ford. “The work has grown over the years from one elderly lady to become a ministry of around 100 quilts a year,” says Mary. “Our purpose is to be of service to our community — a way to show our love for God.”

As Mary sat in church the Sunday of Veterans Day 2021, the veterans were asked to stand and be acknowledged. “I thought we needed to do more than just recognize them that way,” says Mary. “So, we launched into the world of red, white and blue fabric! By the end of the year, we had made more than 50 patriotic quilts, along with ‘regular’ quilts and we took them to church to give to the veterans.”

The quilts left over from the veteran’s event at the church were taken to EveryStep Hospice in Mount Ayr, where Pastor Terry Roberts also serves as EveryStep Hospice spiritual care counselor.

And the quilting ministry grew. Over the years, the quilters have made hundreds of quilts. Besides the ones donated to EveryStep Hospice, the Trinity Christian Church quilting group has provided quilts to those who have had house fires, have lost loved ones, have serious health problems, and those experiencing homelessness.

Mary’s husband would often help her pick out and buy fabric for the quilting group. When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he was comforted by her hobby. “As the disease progressed and he would become agitated, I could take him to either my sewing or quilting rooms and he would sit as I worked. He would become very calm and fall asleep.” EveryStep Hospice in Mount Ayr provided care to Mary’s husband, as well as both of her fellow quilter Debbie’s parents.

Mary’s passion for supporting veterans is fueled not only by her husband’s military service, but also by her son-in-law, who served in Desert Storm, and two grandsons who are in the military. One served in Afghanistan and the other, as a Special Forces medic.

The efforts of the Trinity Christian Church quilting group are appreciated by EveryStep Hospice’s Kristyn Mercer, who is director of the Mount Ayr team. “These quilts mean so much to the patients and their families. Many have remarked the patriotic quilts will be a keepsake even after their loved one has passed away, a treasured item,” says Kristyn. “All of the patients who have received one have commented on the hours it must have taken to make and several people have teared up when they see the quilt. It’s a heartwarming moment to present them to patients!”

The quilters buy most of the material for their projects during sales, some is donated and Trinity Christian Church provides $250 per month to help with expenses. They do not use patterns for their quilts instead Mary says they “let the fabric speak to us.”

The quilters do not like to take credit for the projects they donate, instead giving credit to Trinity Christian Church.

EveryStep’s veteran pinning ceremonies provide honor, dignity and recognition to veterans at the end of their lives. Family members and friends are often on hand with EveryStep staff and volunteers during the celebratory events, which include the Pledge of Allegiance, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the singing of “God Bless America,” a reading of "What is a Veteran," the presentation of a certificate of recognition, and often, a quilt like the ones made by the Trinity Christian Church quilters.

EveryStep is a nonprofit health care organization and a Level 4 partner in the nationally recognized We Honor Veterans initiative. Through its hospice program, EveryStep offers several specialized services for veterans. EveryStep’s Veteran-to-Veteran program is a special service pairing veterans who are volunteers with hospice patients who have served our country. A specialized Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer can provide companionship while talking, reading and sitting with patients. Veterans bring a unique skill set to help patients find peace at the end of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946. Or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep's website here. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance. EveryStep can connect the individual to its own programs and services that may be helpful, as well as services offered by other organizations and providers in the community.