St. John's volunteers ease global suffering

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Carol Tomkins is an active member of St. John's Lutheran Church is Guttenberg. She and other volunteers use their seamstress talents to sew quilts and bags for Lutheran World Relief and other local charitable organizations. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Carol Tomkins of Guttenberg was baptized, confirmed, and married at St. John's Church in Guttenberg. 

The 88-year-old, soon to be 89, continues to be an active member of her church through mission work in collaboration with Lutheran World Relief, a worldwide program.  

"A group of us put quilts together and sew bags used to hold hygiene items, things to care for  a newborn baby, or hold school supplies, from fabric donated by parishioners and community members," explained Tomkins. 

Making a Lutheran World Relief quilt is a tangible way to express love to neighbors in need. The handmade quilts can be used as warm bedding, simple tents or floor coverings. A bag with a kit in it may help someone maintain good hygiene, care for a newborn baby, keep education going during a crisis, or while learning a new vocation. Whether it is a handmade quilt or bag, each reflects God's loving presence in easing global suffering. 

Mission quilts

"We make the quilts in Guttenberg and then they go to St. Paul Church in Decorah. From there they are sent where ever they are needed," commented Tomkins. 

Many hands take part in the process. "A group of women piece the quilt tops together, and then I  assemble the layers using old sheets and blankets," she told The Press. "When I complete the process I send them on to another group that ties them together with yarn" 

The mission group is grateful for Thrivent, a non-profit organization, that donates $250 dollars each year to purchase sheets, thread, sewing machine needles, and other supplies. They are also grateful for the many seamstresses in the area who donate leftover material from their own sewing projects. 

"There are so many people that are part of this mission," noted Tomkins. "It is not possible to name them all, and I wouldn't want to leave anyone out." 

Bags for kits

The kit bags are sewn together at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Guttenberg, an affiliate of St. John's. "We use heavier fabric, such as denim or corduroy for the bags, which is hard on the sewing machine needles," she said with a smile. 

Tomkins is also a member of St. John's Sarah Circle and the Altar Guild, and is part of a group that puts together quilts for hospice patients and the local Family Resource Center. She was a faithful volunteer at Guttenberg's senior mealsite until its closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "We all miss mealsite, but many of us gather to play bingo once a week on Wednesday morning in the former location at the Municipal building. Those of us that volunteer set up the tables, make coffee and homemade cookies, and call bingo." 

Tomkins is grateful for her health and the many  individuals who continue to volunteer to make her mission work possible. 

"I would like to add that I am so proud of my granddaughter, Brandie, who is the Chamber/Vitality Director for Guttenberg," she shared. "I am so thankful for all the people that help, because I couldn't do it without them," she said with gratitude.

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