WHEN IT comes to quilting, CarolynLee Barrett can piece together an beautiful blanket. When it comes to teaching and helping others, she is just as talented.
Barrett, a retired school teacher from the Buckeye Local School District, is a resident of Steubenville. A few years ago she volunteered to teach an outreach class on quilting to women in her church. That class soon came together to reach out and touch hundreds of families.
Today, Quilters InC (Quilters In Christ) continues to gather the first Saturday of each month at the Starkdale Presbyterian Church on Sunset Blvd. in Steubenville. Not only does the group learn new quilting techniques from Barrett, they put their talents to work creating the hand-crafted blankets for premature infants born at several different hospitals across the tri-state area.
CAROLYNLEE BARRETT is featured in this month’s “Hey! That’s My Neighbor” for her many acts of kindness including organizing a group of sewers who craft quilts for premature babies...just one of the many kindnesses she does for others.
The idea to create the blankets was born a few years ago when Barrett read a story about another Ohio Valley woman who was doing a similar project.
"I called her, got the information I needed and Quilters InC just grew for there," she said with a huge smile.
Today, about a dozen women share their talents by crafting the handmade quilts in three different sizes.
According to Barrett the smallest quilts measure just 15 x 15-inches...just the perfect size for a premature infant which often weighs less than two pounds.
Other sizes include 22 x 22-inch quilts along with a bigger 36 x 26-inch creation.
"Some hospitals like Children's Hospital in Akron want the larger quilts because they give them out to all their patients," Barrett noted. "We are fine with that...knowing that our work gives a patient a little piece of mind or comfort. That's all we need to know."
Hospitals receiving the quilts in addition to the Akron facility include Transitional Infant Care in Pittsburgh, Western Penn Hospital, The Children's Home and Lemieux Family Center.
"Many mothers are able to carry their newborn babies home in the blankets," Barrett said. "We don't hear from their personally but the hospitals always contact us to let us know when they receive a shipment of the quilts.
The current group of quilters, which numbers one dozen, meets on the first Saturday of each month at the church...unless there is something else happening such as a wedding or dinner.
"Then we just move our day up a week or back a week," Barrett said. "We are flexible. We meet in the morning, have lunch (which is prepared by one of the members) and work until about 3 p.m."
Barrett stressed that new members are always welcome to "come, learn and create" while enjoying great fellowship.
Since the group began making the blankets for premature infants, they have crafted over 200 of the soft, snugly blankets.
"We have no intentions of stopping," Barrett noted. "Everyone just continues to make the quilts and attends the monthly gatherings where we collect them and then ship them to the hospitals."
The cost of sending the quilts can get rather expensive but is covered in part by her church and also through money provided by members.
In addition, Barrett said the secretary at the church transports a shipment to Akron's Children's Hospital.
"That saves us a lot of money," she happily noted.
Recently a quilt was presented to the great-grandson of a church member.
"She has brought pictures of this little premature baby and shared with us," Barrett said. "It is so touching to see this little guy bundled up in one of our quilts."
Current members of the group include Barrett, Ella Jane Burns, Sharon Petrilla, Dolores Visyak, Anamae Zamborsky, Bonnie Kaine, Rose Mary Grimm, Cheryl Harian, Saundra Chandler, Mikie Brownings, Mary Velegol and Lin Madigan.
When she isn't busy quilting, Barrett also uses her talents and a furry friend to brighten the life of residents in area nursing homes.
"I visit several homes with my Shetland sheep dog, Gabriel," she said from her Lover's Lane, Steubenville home. "We visit at least three times a month. Gabe is very good with the residents and they love him."
Barrett obtained the "lucky dog" from a local rescue shelter a few years back after the loss of her other dog.
"We were meant to be together," she says of Gabe. "I didn't even know I wanted another dog after having to put my other dog down. Somehow everything just fell into place and today we are working together to make others happy. It may not be much, but just seeing a resident perk up when Gabe and I walk into their room makes it all worth it!"
Nominated for "HEY! That's My Neighbor" by long time fellow teacher and pal Rosemary Gron, Barrett's talents aren't just limited to quilts and pet therapy.
"She taught school at Buckeye Local at the Brilliant school for 40 years," Gron said in her nomination letter. "The quilts and pet therapy are just a few of the many "kindnesses" she does. Many things go unheralded."