Sew fine: Local quilters have Jeffco victims covered

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By Stephen Knapp

"Blessed are the piecemakers."
— Anonymous

A quilt is an uncommonly generous article.
In the making it provides companionship and purpose and relaxation. In the giving it imparts warmth and comfort and a bond between souls. In the using it’s a thing of enduring beauty that gives ease to all the senses. In Evergreen, it’s the province of People Comforters, a kindly patchwork of local ladies sewn together with threads of friendship and compassion.
“The group was started in 1989 by Minnie Schneider, and we have members of every age group,” says the nonprofit’s informal comforter-in-chief, Juel DeCicco. “We have about 20 members at any given time, and we make and donate about 30 quilts a month. Some of them are made here in the workshop. Many of the women work on them at home. I think what we do is a really valuable service to the community.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office thinks so, too. When the People Comforters workshop on Buchanan Drive fell to the bulldozer’s blade a few years back, JCSO gladly offered them space in its mountain precinct on Highway 73. Fact is, the department has good reason to encourage the quilters’ good works. For one thing, the troupe’s colorful creations lining its walls make Evergreen’s station arguably the most attractive in the county. More importantly, every JCSO cruiser from Ralston Valley to Pine Valley carries a little quilted comfort in the back, along with toiletry kits and stuffed toys also donated in great part by People Comforters.
“The deputies give them to victims of crime, or fire, or theft, or any time they think it would help,” DeCicco explains. “We hear back from officers all the time about how much they’re appreciated by the people who receive them.”
Many other People Comforter donations find their way to Ralston House in Lakewood, where abused children find safety and healing and something consoling to cling to.
“The children have to be interviewed when they arrive at Ralston House, and it can be scary for them. It helps if they have a blanket or a stuffed toy to hold onto.”

"Our lives are like quilts — bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love."
— Anonymous

Jostling for space in People Comforters’ bustling workshop, Carmen Fink is working on a special quilt. The bright checkerboard pattern and thick border are just beginning to take shape, and a short stack of heart-shaped patches patiently await their turn at the sewing machine.
“It’s for an elementary-school girl here in Evergreen who has cancer,” she says. Fink is a positive woman, energetic and briskly sociable, and the moment she starts talking about the project her eyes fill with tears and her optimistic façade begins to break. “She just started chemotherapy. Kids shouldn’t have to do that. When it’s finished, all of the kids in her class will sign it and present it to her. It will give her something to remind her of them if she can’t keep coming to class.”
A lot of material goes into 360 quilts a year, and a thankfully reliable Victims Assistance and Law Enforcement grant covers much of the cost of bulk fabric and thread. For everything else, People Comforters relies on its members’ personal resources and the kindness of strangers.
“We get a lot of support from the Elks and Mountain Connection, but we’re always in need of private donations,” DeCicco says. “Stuffed toys and toiletries and warm hats and gloves may seem like little things, but they can make a big difference to victims of a crime or a tragedy.”
If needle and thread can be bought with money, only human hands can wield them, which is why People Comforters is always on the lookout for new hands. Two years ago Fink was a new hand whose fingers had never once plied the quilter’s craft.
“I’d never made a quilt in my life,” Fink smiles. “I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn’t matter. The people here are wonderful. Everybody helps each other. There are women here who never used a sewing machine before, and now they do incredible things with it.
“They all taught me how to make quilts, and now I help teach others. I find what we do very moving.”
People Comforters meets from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday in the JCSO Mountain Precinct substation at 4990 Highway 73. To learn more, call Juel DeCicco at 303-670-1274.

"I’ve spent most of my life making quilts. The rest I’ve just wasted."
— Anonymous