Preserving history one stitch at a time

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Pictured from left: Longtime club members Avaline Harris, Sue Brilhart and Marie Day quilt and chat in July 2009.

 For some, being a member of the Chadwick Friendship Club was a family tradition passed down from generation to generation. Such was the case for Marie Day, who is one of the longest-standing members of the club.

“Back in the 1950s when I got married and moved to the community, (my husband’s) mother was an active member of the quilting and extension club, and so I kind of automatically started,” Day says. “It was passed down (through generations) for several years.”

The Chadwick Friendship Club traces its roots back to the early 1950s, when a number of area women began quilting together at the Union Church. At that time, the women, many who were also members of the extension club, quilted to raise money for the upkeep of the church’s cemetery.

After several years, the group changed meeting locations to Chadwick’s old depot building. Back then, the money raised by quilting instead went to the upkeep of the building. The club continued meeting in the depot for nearly 30 years, when escalating numbers of improvements on the facility became necessary.

After futile attempts to obtain grant money for the repairs, the ladies decided to take a different approach. Several years and many bazaars, book sales and fundraisers later, the women succeeded in raising $10,000 toward the construction of a new community center. The building was completed in 1984, and has been home to the club, as well as numerous other community activities, ever since.

While many of the members have known each other for years, there are others who are relatively new to the community in comparison. That really does not matter in a club that treats everyone as a friend.

“We have a very good time. We talk about what’s going on in the world and ideas and problems that we have,” says Sue Brilhart, a 22-year member of the club. “It’s the draw of being together.”

Day says there are additional therapeutic benefits to being a member.

“Over the years it’s kind of become an ‘unwind’ situation from the weekend,” Day says. “Everybody comes in and they kind of unload.”

While the members catch up with one another, their hands are moving just as fast as they expertly quilt the time away. The club has seen many different types of quilts come through their doors during the years that they have been together, ranging from those made of flour sacks to ones from as far away as California. Scrapbooks are filled with pictures of the various quilts that the club has completed, and “each one kind of has its own little story,” Day says.  “You’re working all the time but it’s actually fun.”

It usually takes between four and six weeks to complete a quilt, and it is not unusual for there to be a waiting list. The cost depends on the size of the quilt, but generally ranges between $150 and 200.  That money, however, does not go too far away.

“The main reason that we quilt is to help maintain this building,” says Brilhart. “Pay the insurance, the lights, the water; whatever.”

The Chadwick Friendship Club continues to meet on a weekly basis on Mondays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The club always welcomes new members, and encourages everyone to come in and visit.

“We always invite people to come,” Day says. “It’s kind of a lost art, so it’s good to encourage younger people to get involved.”

For more information on quilting or the club, call Day at (417) 634-3734.

This article originally appeared in The Christian County Headliner News on July 6, 2009. As of May 2015, the club is still meeting weekly.