When Charlene Allen opened a box of items she'd stored in her office at Vital Aging for a couple years, she knew there was a quilt inside the container but she didn't know what it looked like. Turns out it was an unfinished quilt that came along with a request; that it would be finished.
Vital Aging of Williamsburg County has a quilting group of ladies that spend time at the center each week quilting each other's tops that will be given to family members, donated to soldiers, or charity events such as the agency's annual fund raising dinner. The ladies at the Kingstree Wellness Center jumped at the chance to finish the forgotten quilt and when they unfolded the piece they were pleasantly surprised.
The top of the quilt is inscribed with "Strength through unity, 1976-1977. The sides and bottom are covered in over 200 hand-stitched names, including a dog and a cat. The center is emblazoned with a large red, gold, and green emblem with "O of A" stitched along the bottom, representing the Mason's Order of the Amaranth.
Randy Croom is the family member that left the quilt with other items such as material that his mother used to fashion the spreads. Croom explained the quilt was started with his grandmother Georgia Greer. He can't explain who everyone is. "Some of the names I can't recognized," said Croom, adding most are directly or indirectly related to his mother's side of the family.
Most of the ladies had never quilted before they joined Vital Aging. Bessie Weathers joined the group about 10 years ago. "I never quilted till I came here," she said. "After I got here I kept looking at them and I wanted to do it and I did it." She's finished about 35 quilts, including a necktie quilt. Sarah Carroll has been quilting at the center since 2010. "I've made 116 quilts," said Carroll who doesn't miss many quilting days. Annie Chandler started quilting when she was 81 and hasn’t slowed down. "I can’t count them," said the 87-year-old.
Their task for the family heirloom is to quilt the top. The ladies elected to use a "Baptist Fan" design, which creates a ripple effect across the entire quilt and is sturdy enough to withstand washings. When asked how long it will take them to stitch the fans, instructor Vivian Cato was blunt. "It takes forever," she said with a smile. "You just do it till you get through."
The quilt has little flukes such as the D in Wisdom is backwards and the S is upside down but they don't plan on altering anything. When complete, the quilt will be returned to its rightful owner who believes it would be a great auction item. "There's a couple of grandchildren that would love to have it," said Croom.