Ugly Quilts provides protection for homeless

Monday, November 1, 2010
Kathi Travaglini, right, and Linda Mittrucker work on an "ugly quilt" Saturday at the De Paul Center in Cape Girardeau.

Most people could answer the question of where they will sleep tonight with ease: home. But for homeless Americans, the answer is far from certain.

Ugly Quilts is an annual, nondenominational, not-for-profit event that takes place at the old Notre Dame High School gym, now known as the De Paul Center, at 1912 Ritter Drive in Cape Girardeau during the last weekend of October.

"We call the sleeping bags Ugly Quilts because we use any kind of fabric that is suitably warm and durable," said Alme Heisserer, an area resident who has a longstanding affiliation with Ugly Quilts. "We're here to make life saving sleeping bags, not win quilting contests, so people of all skill levels can contribute. The only qualification you need is a desire to help."

More than 150 people helped Ugly Quilts this year. Participants' cumulative efforts created 173 bedrolls that will be used by the homeless this winter.

"When you help others who are less fortunate than you, it really puts your own problems in perspective," participant David Sachs said.

Bev Brown, left, with her daughter Katy Boehme, and Melissa Sanford piece together one of the "ugly quilts" for the needy Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 at the De Paul Center in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Former area resident Jill Young returned to Cape Girardeau over the weekend to contribute to the relief effort.

"Each bedroll we make comes into contact with no less than 20 people during the creation process," Young said. "That's 20 people acting on the compassion in their hearts to help a homeless man, woman or child survive this winter. It's a way to make a difference on a personal level, and through that it truly becomes a labor of love."

Ugly Quilts began 15 years ago when Cape Girardeau resident Therese Pierce read a magazine article about a volunteer group that makes sleeping bags to protect homeless people from frigid weather.

"She read that article, looked at me and said, 'Honey, we could start doing this down at the church to help,'" said Vic Pierce, widower of Therese Pierce. "After Therese sent off for instructions on how to make the sleeping bags, she and I made one in our living room and she took it to the women's council at our church."

The council agreed the project would be a good one, and what started out as a single sleeping bag made in a living room in 1995 has grown into an annual two-day event. Last year more than 200 sleeping bags were made during the event and distributed locally and in larger cities.

Ugly Quilts relies on the community for donated materials. People or businesses interested in making donations or finding out how they can help can visit St. Vincent de Paul Church at 1913 Ritter Drive in Cape Girardeau. They can also contact Kathy Berkbigler at 335-1040 or Pat Edwards at 334-2328.

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