Volunteers Needed For Annual Quilting Marathon

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Thread the needles, cut the fabric and get ready for the annual Strawberry Patchers' Department of Public Safety Quilt-a-thon.

Don't know how to quilt?

Sew what.

Volunteers are needed for ironing, folding and cutting fabric. Supplies and monetary donations are also accepted and appreciated.

The group hopes to create 200 quilts by the completion of the three-day extravaganza, which runs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Pine Library's activity room.

The Arizona Quilter's Guild-sponsored activity involves the dedication of volunteers and a lot of fun, said Willene Smith, state chairwoman for the DPS quilt-a-thon project.

"We eat, we laugh, we work hard, we make a mess," she said. "We make a mountain of quilts."

Smith, who founded the Strawberry Patchers in 1994, said she hopes that 20 quilters of the 38-membered group will help out in the quilting marathon this year.

"We have a great nucleus of wonderful gals," she said.

Smith's ties to law enforcement -- her husband is a retired Phoenix Police detective and her son is a DPS officer -- inspired her to set up the project, which aims to provide quilts for every DPS officer in the state to carry for children involved in accidents.

There are more than 600 DPS officers in Arizona.

"Our goal is to comfort a child and to make an officer's job easier," Smith said. "My goal is to have at least one quilt in each car."

The group originally funded the quilting project out-of-pocket, but Smith said that it now has its own budget, thanks to a raffle held at town events on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and at the Northern Gila County Fair.

She had $1,450 to work with this year.

Smith said that with a similar budget last year, the group was able to make quilts at a cost of only $3 a quilt.

The quilts are generally brightly colored, 45 inches by 60 inches or smaller, and designed for small children, Smith said.

Smith hand-delivers the quilts to DPS Headquarters in Phoenix every year and said that she always hears tales of how the quilts helped someone.

"Last year, a DPS officer came upon a car that was pulled over and ended up helping deliver a baby," Smith said. "The officer wrapped it up in one of our quilts and said, ‘This is your first gift.'"

The Strawberry Patchers group has made 4,182 quilts to date, Smith said.

Anyone interested in donating supplies, money or time to the group, contact Smith at (928) 476-3587.

Quilts can also be mailed to Smith at HC1 Box 904, Strawberry, AZ 85504.

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