Mary Jones loves quilting and embroidering, passions she has shared with many other creative people at a weekly craft group she started a decade ago at Ringwood Salvos (Vic.). But there’s much more to this group than needles, threads and pretty fabric.
Why did you start the craft group?
I enjoyed quilting and had been going to a craft group at another church for about 15 years. Then, 11 years ago, I became quite sick and was in and out of hospital. When I felt I could get out and about again, I thought, ‘I’ve got to give something back to God.’
I knew I could do craft and had a strong feeling that I needed to set up a craft group. I approached our corps officer (minister) about the idea and I started it on a Thursday morning, initially with about 10 ladies. We now have 44 on our books, ranging from young mums to ladies in their 80s. It’s grown so much more than I ever thought it would.
You must see some beautiful work—what sort of craft do people do?
There’s a wide variety because everyone brings their own projects. There’s quilting, applique, cross stitch, crochet, knitting, jewellery and card making. One of our (few!) men does the most delicate stitching, one of our ladies makes stuffed toys for hospitals. A great thing about the group is that we all help each other; if anyone wants to learn how to do a particular craft, someone will teach them how to do it.
Is the group as much about friendship as it is about being creative?
Very much so. There’s a lovely warmth about our group. People will often tell me that Thursday is their happy day of the week or that when they drive around the corner and see the church, they feel like they are coming home. Many also tell me they have withdrawal symptoms when we break up for Christmas!
A big part of our group is morning tea, which is served to us by some hardworking men from the church, including my husband. We continually have cups of tea and coffee and wonderful cakes, scones, biscuits, dips, spring rolls—it’s like a party! We really don’t need to have lunch afterwards.
Another important part of the group is our prayer journal, where people can ask us to pray for them. It’s a gentle way to share our faith; I was so happy recently someone stood up and thanked us for praying for a family member who had come through a very hard time. It makes it all worthwhile to be able to support others.
The group does more than craft, though, doesn’t it?
We give back to the community. People give a gold coin donation to come to the group and over the years we have raised money to buy a motorcycle for a missionary doctor in Indonesia and we support a children’s home through The Salvation Army’s child sponsorship program.
We’ve raised money for kidney research, and one of our ladies has a lovely garden where we’ve held fundraising ‘bring and buy’ auctions. We recently raised more than $1,000 for polio research (one of our ladies had polio).
During winter, The Salvation Army in Melbourne needed scarves to give out to those in need and the next thing I knew, we had a big bag of scarves to send to them. Another of our ladies makes me crocheted blankets to go to a dialysis service because people there need to have blankets during treatment. Our members are so ready to help others.
What do you find rewarding about it?
I feel so blessed to have such lovely friends—it really lifts me up to feel so loved. I get so much more back than I give out.