The Cabin Branch Quilters brought their handiwork, some 78 quilts, to Action in Community Through Service in Dumfries late last month, the lively colors and ornate patterns intended to brighten the lives of children who have weathered awful times.
It was a donation to the domestic-violence services program at ACTS, a nonprofit group that supports Prince William-area residents who have been victimized or need counseling, food or temporary shelter. Specifically, the quilts are meant to comfort children who have fled an abusive environment.
The good deed wasn’t a one-time gesture by the quilting guild, which meets at Lake Ridge Baptist Church. The organization has made charity work a part of its identity since its founding in 1989, as has the Stone House Quilters Guild of Manassas, which was formed in 1994.
The Cabin Branch group is named for the Cabin Branch Mining Co., which mined pyrite in the late 1800s and early 1900s in what is now a section of Prince William Forest Park. It has about 165 members, including some men, former group president Carlene Halsing said last week. Ages range from the teens up.
Cabin Branch members hold an annual quilt show with their counterparts in the Stone House group, and they regularly put on workshops and programs.
They have donated hundreds of quilts to ACTS over the years, Halsing said, and they’ve provided quilts for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.
The cuddly softness of quilts endears them to recipients, as does the knowledge that they’re handmade, Halsing said. These qualities set them apart from other blankets, she said.
“When you say, ‘quilt,’ that puts a whole ’nother spin on things,” she said.
Dotty Larson, the director of domestic-violence services at ACTS, praised the Cabin Branch group. The organization is a dependable partner to ACTS, she said, and the members’ skill is outstanding.
The quilts can become important possessions to the children who receive them, Larson said, because they may have had to leave a dangerous home quickly, with few belongings.
The crafters also have a strong sense of what they can include in a quilt to catch a child’s eye, she said, such as ladybugs or cars.
The Stone House guild also attends to the interests of one of its target audiences: wounded veterans. Group President Patrisha Wells said quilters have donated their creations to injured service members, including those at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Those pieces tend to be patriotic, with lots of red, white and blue.
The Stone House guild is named for a historic structure in Manassas National Battlefield Park. It began with an informal gathering of crafters focused on Civil War reproduction quilts, and grew to include programs on all types of quilts and other fabric projects. At 34, Wells said, she might be the youngest member of her organization, which has 82 members.
Like Cabin Branch, the Stone House guild raffles off a quilt every year for charity, she said. This year, the group raised more than $1,000 for the Virginia Police Benevolent Association.
Stone House also donated 54 quilts last year as part of its service work, Wells said, and the guild had assembled a batch of 17 as of April to be distributed later this year.
In addition to donating to wounded veterans, she said, Stone House quilters have provided quilts to the Manassas and Gainesville Health & Rehab Centers, and to Court Appointed Special Advocates Children’s Intervention Services in Manassas.
CASA supports children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, and Wells pointed out that the organization’s clients might grow to love quilts they receive, just like the children helped by ACTS.
“They don’t have a whole lot of things to call their own, and this is something that is just theirs,” she said.