APOLLO BEACH – Every Tuesday women parishioners who love to stitch gather at Calvary Lutheran Church to sew, converse and make things for charity. They’re called the Sew Whats and the work they do while enjoying such fellowship is a calling.
“It’s a small, self-supporting ministry of our church that provides compassion and care to small children and adults at home and in hospitals and nursing homes to be the image of Christ to them and to the community,” said the Rev. Jack Palzer, Calvary’s pastor.
Formed in 2002 by Sue Heimburger, the group has made hundreds and hundreds of colorful quilts for babies in the neonatal intensive care units at Tampa General and All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. This year, its 16 current members are not only continuing that tradition but also making bibs for kids and adults, anti-ouch pouches and Good Deed dresses, which are made from a pattern created for charity groups to use and give away, not to make and sell.
“This year we decided we needed to do something a little different to keep ourselves motivated and to reach out to other members of the community,” said Vicki Tucker, Sew Whats coordinator. “We’re creating the dresses and children’s bibs to give to the Kid’s Place in Brandon; the anti-ouch pouches to women who have had any type of breast surgery; lap quilts and reversible adult bibs for LifePath Hospice; and small quilts for babies at Tampa General and All Children’s hospitals.”
Some quilts are kept at the church for Calvary’s ministers to use, as needed, for pastoral care, Tucker said, “for emergency needs in the community, like when someone’s house burns down.”
Members may start work at home and bring what they’re working on to Sew Whats meetings to finish or vice versa. Some of the group’s snowbirds bring quilts they’ve made up North over the summer to donate to A Kid’s Place.
Ginny Fee, an original Sew Whats member, said she loves taking part in the ministry.
“First of all, I enjoy the incredible fellowship we share,” she said. “We’re kind of like a family within our Calvary family. And I enjoy being able to make things that are needed by others.”
“We all like to sew and this gives us an avenue to do it and give what we make away.”
Heimburger was inspired by her daughter Kimberly to started the Sew Whats
After Heimburger and her family moved to Riverview in 1997, Kimberly – now an adult – spent much of the next five years at All Children’s Hospital. She needed numerous surgeries for hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, caused by her premature birth. During one of her stays, she told a child life specialist that her mom was starting a sewing group, and soon after Heimburger was asked if she would like to make quilts for babies in the neonatal unit.
The hospital had no money to pay for cloth and supplies, so Heimburger sought help from other church members. She received a bequest and generous donation to start things off, and then organized a cookie walk and made enough money to buy three sewing machines.
The group now has eight.
Today the group still relies on the kindness of others to make ends meet. It hosts fundraisers throughout the year and occasionally receives matching monies from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Anyone who likes to sew is welcome to join. The group meets Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. September through May. If interested, call the church office at (813) 645-1305.