- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

DYERSVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Every Monday, Mary Jo Budan can be found in a cramped room in the basement of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, working away on a quilt.

She frequently is joined by several other women who toil away at various fabric creations, such as hats, scarves, mittens and even underwear.

The apparel - gifts from the Dyersville Layette Group - will be donated to children and families in need throughout Iowa and the world.

Budan said the group has come a long way in 25 years, but the goal has always been the same: To give.

“When we first started this, it was so small,” Budan said. “It’s really grown to be something. I can’t believe all the work that we do.”

The Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2eCNply ) reports that the Layette Group is a club of about 20 women that meet every week to make clothes and quilts out of used fabric. Budan, the group’s founder and leader, said she started the group after a bad car accident.

“I broke my leg in an accident, and I had nothing else to do but sew,” Budan said. “By the time I was healed, I had five quilts that I didn’t know what to do with.”

Budan asked her friends in the church choir what she could do with the quilts. They recommended donating them to hospitals, and they also offered to help.

“We started meeting and sewing with whatever fabric we had,” Budan said. “More and more people kept asking about it, and eventually we had to get a room.”

Today, Budan’s Layette Group is located in what used to be a coal-storage room for the church. Instead of coal, the room now is filled to the brim with pieces of fabric and boxes of clothes.

The group donates about 1,000 items every year to various organizations, such as Hills & Dales, University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital.

“Mary has been really good at getting connections with places for us to donate,” said group member Judy Wilhelm. “She makes sure there is always someone to donate to.”

The group has donated outside of Iowa as well. They prepared a massive donation of scarves and layettes to families in Haiti.

“It’s amazing the work they do,” said Roger Riesberg, deacon at St. Francis Xavier. “The women that work in that group are the lifeblood of what service is all about.”

Budan said the group prioritizes clothing for children in need. Their centerpiece creations - comfort quilts - are specially made quilts for children suffering from serious diseases.

“They’ll tell us what kind of quilt they want, and we’ll make it for them,” Budan said. “We usually get kids with cancer, and they want quilts with something like dogs or superheroes. They love it when they get them.”

Budan lost a daughter to breast cancer. She said many of the group’s members also have lost children.

“We often wonder what brought us all together,” Budan said. “All of us lost a child, and this group has been a great way for us to find some comfort in that.”

When she’s not leading the Layette Group, Budan spends her time directing the Resurrection Funeral Choir. The group performs at about 52 funerals per year.

Budan said she has always had a lot of time to spare, so she has decided to spend it giving back.

For her, it’s the greatest joy.

“It’s true when they say it’s more fun to give than to receive,” Budan said. “It’s an amazing feeling to do good, and I don’t ever want to stop.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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