Byron quilters complete project for Sandy Hook families

Sun News correspondentSeptember 30, 2013 

BYRON -- Byron’s Comforting Quilters have finished 26 handmade memorial quilts for families of the 20 children and six adults whose lives were taken Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Julie Love, who leads the quilting group, said it took almost nine months to the day to complete the project. On Sunday, Comforting Quilters held a blessing of the quilts ceremony at the Byron Welcome Center in the Peach Shops at Byron, just off Interstate 75.

The quilts will remain on display for public viewing at the welcome center for three weeks, then be taken down and boxed. Love and seven other members of the group will travel to deliver them to Newtown families in November.

“Words can’t describe the tragedy Newtown suffered,” Love said. “There’s no way we can really understand how they feel, but we wanted to convey how we felt and hopefully share our love and a bit of comfort.”

In praying over and blessing the quilts, ministers and others at the gathering often mentioned their hopes that families receiving the quilts would have ssense of being embraced in angels’ wings and comforted by God.

In one portion of a blessing, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Varga prayed asking God to “let your love wrap around those who wrap themselves in these quilts.”Varga is a retired Progressive Episcopal Church minister, former Army chaplain, the Byron Fire Department’s chaplain and has served in various first-responder roles himself. He called the quilts a remembrance of the loss of so many lives and said the project signified that those who lost their lives and those who must live on with grief will not be forgotten.

Also speaking at the ceremony was the Rev. Audrey George, also known in Middle Georgia as Chef Audrey.

“I’m a mom,” George said. “I’ve never walked in the shoes of these parents who lost children and I can’t imagine what it’s like to know you’ll never hear their voices again, but we can pray that they be comforted as they hold these quilts--even though they can’t hold their children--and that they will know the comfort of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace.”

Representatives of Peach, Houston and Crawford County law enforcement and fire departments served as honor guards Sunday.

“I have a son who is 8, right in the age range of the children who were killed in Newtown,” said Byron firefighter Jonathan Holland. “It hits me right in the heart to see children of any age hurt or killed. This is a big deal for all of us. It hits really close to home.”

The Comforting Quilters made each of the 26 quilts of green and white materials, colors of Sandy Hook Elementary. Each was personalized with various embroidered squares featuring the person’s name, the green angel that has come to represent Sandy Hook Elementary and the Comforting Quilter’s mark.

Quilter Karla Chidester said families also will receive a handmade sympathy card, a handmade hanging angel ornament, a pocket testament and a photo album documenting the making of the quilts.

Also at Sunday’s ceremonies, quilter Kathy Percell presented a $2,000 donation toward the project from the Loveall Foundation for Children of Granite Bay, Ca. Percell’s sister-in-law, Sheryl Loveall-Percell, is an officer of the charity.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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