- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - Therese Pierce died six years ago, but her pet project is alive and well, as evidenced by the army of volunteers who recently filled the gym at the De Paul Center in Cape Girardeau, making bedrolls for the homeless.

Pierce’s husband, Vic, said St. Vincent de Paul Parish’s annual Ugly Quilt Weekend started in 1995, when his wife saw a magazine article about a woman who began making bedrolls after a chance encounter with a kind homeless man.

“Therese read that in the article and said, ‘Hon, this’d be wonderful to get going here,’” Vic Pierce told the Southeast Missourian (https://bit.ly/1rFT1Yg ).

During a bus trip in the St. Louis area a few years ago, the Pierces looked out the window and saw a man on an “old, ratty bike,” Vic Pierce said.

“Strapped on the back was one of those bedrolls,” he said.

Organizer Kathy Berkbigler said volunteers hoped to complete 250 bedrolls over the course of the weekend.

“The reason they call them ‘ugly quilts’ is we don’t worry about matching fabric,” Berkbigler said.

The quilts start as 7-foot squares. The tops are pieced from heavy fabric and the bottoms from lighter material, with blankets or mattress pads in the middle for insulation, Berkbigler explained.

“We have ladies that sew at home,” making each layer, she said.

On Ugly Quilt Weekend, volunteers tack the layers together with crochet thread and fold them in half.

Seamstresses like Dorothy Dees of Scott City then machine-stitch the bottom and sides to make a sort of zipperless sleeping bag.

“I’m a professional volunteer,” Dees said, laughing, as she fed the edge of a bedroll through a sewing machine equipped with a heavy-duty needle.

Dees comes to the DePaul Center every Wednesday to work on layers.

“It grows on you,” she said. “I’m telling you: If you do it a time or two, you’ll keep doing it.”

Volunteers also make bags and fill them with hats, scarves, socks, gloves and travel-sized toiletries such as shampoo and soap saved from hotel rooms.

Pat Edwards of Cape Girardeau helps coordinate the logistics of collecting and sorting donations.

“You don’t have to sew in order to be involved,” she said.

Southeast Missouri State University student Danielle Grandberry found out about Ugly Quilt Weekend through her involvement in Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity.

“It was fun,” said Grandberry, a political-science major from St. Louis. “I started yesterday, and I decided to come back.”

Berkbigler said Grandberry was one of about 140 volunteers who had joined the fun over the course of two days, and she expected more before the weekend was out.

The bedrolls are distributed through local organizations such as Homeless Connect and through St. Vincent DePaul Parish in St. Louis, which feeds the homeless, Berkbigler said.

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, https://www.semissourian.com

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