Lutheran ladies bring warmth one stitch at
a time

Wanda English Burnett

The nimble fingers of volunteers from the Olean Lutheran Church have brought warmth to people around the world for over 30 years - this year was no different with 511 blankets shipped Wednesday morning to Lutheran World Relief efforts.

The program designed by the Lutheran Church, was brought to the attention of Esther Geisler in 1976 when she read a magazine article in "Lutheran Women". The need for people to have warm blankets when faced with disaster spoke to her heart and the blanket ministry was born at Olean.

Geisler and three other ladies from the church, Aurelia Werner, Dora Borcheldt, and Miriam Obendorf, were off and running with the project that continues today.

Every Tuesday you can find women at the Olean Lutheran Church putting together a variety of blankets. The group used to meet at Geisler’s home, but quickly outgrew the space. They get their materials, all new, from a variety of sources, people who have hearts as big as theirs, and donate to the cause.

This year a semi truck from Batesville Casket rolled into the church parking lot to have the boxes loaded. The driver, Jerry Peetz, is a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church at Napoleon. He has been with Batesville Casket for 46 years and is proud to be associated with a company that would donate the truck and the driver for the cause.

The blankets are taken to Indianapolis and then on to Baltimore, MD, where they are baled. They are then shipped to any area in the world where there’s a disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina or the recent fires in California, where people have lost everything.

“We are so blessed, but, there are a lot of people who are not right here at home,” Geisler noted. Her eyes lit up as she talked about the project, knowing it will bring comfort to those in need.
The blankets not only go around the world, they are distributed right here at home, according to Martha Jean Jarvis, secretary for the church.

“We’ve sent them to Safe Passage, (a shelter at Batesville), another shelter at Madison, and to the Recycle Reuse Center in Osgood,” Jarvis told The Versailles Republican. She said the group received a grant of $100 from the Ripley County Community Foundation with the stipulation that the money stay in the county. “That wasn’t a problem,” she noted, saying there are people right here in need.

Geisler said she’s getting older, “my days are limited,” but, hopes the effort she and others started 33 years ago, will continue long after she is gone. “One doesn’t know how it is to be cold and miserable,” she concluded.

The blanket project for Lutheran World Relief, is just one of the efforts the ladies at Olean Lutheran participate in. They also make baby blankets for Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, knit IV covers and hats and much more. From November to March, they collectively made 152 baby blankets. “Oh, we’re sewers down here,” Geisler laughed.

The group is definitely sewing seeds of kindness as they weave threads together to make life better for people they’ve never met.

Esther Geisler, left, the founder of the blanket project at the Olean Lutheran Church, and Martha Jean Jarvis, secretary for the church and a "great knotter" show some of the finished products being shipped around the world for Lutheran World Relief. This year the Olean church alone made 511 blankets for the effort. They were shipped to Indianapolis and then on to Baltimore, MD, where they will be stored until needed.