- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Western Community College students are stitching their way through a community service project this semester.

Students in intercultural communications are taking old donated jeans and turning them into quilts to benefit the Open Door Mission of Omaha, The Daily Nonpareil (https://bit.ly/2oj5vxI ) reported.

Professor Elizabeth Duncan first started the “Our Jeans Are All The Same” project last semester after her husband told her about a Levi’s commercial that had a special message.

“No matter who we are, young or old, rich or poor, it doesn’t matter what our nationality is or ethnicity because we all have something in common: We all wear jeans,” Duncan said of the message.

Seeing a common theme, Duncan said she wanted to take that message into her classroom.

“Sometimes, we’re busy looking at all the differences in people, but one thing that pulls us back together is we all wear jeans,” Duncan said. “So, I took it to the students and they decided to collect blue jeans to donate them to people in need.”

Last semester, students collected 109 pairs of jeans during a two-week period. They spent the following two weeks making the quilts and donated a total of five quilts to the Open Door Mission.

This semester, students set an initial goal of collecting 125 pairs of jeans. They exceeded that goal, collecting a total of 148 pairs of jeans.

April 6, marked the first day for students working hands-on with the project. Split into stations, students were responsible for different duties, including cutting the blue jeans, tracing quilt squares templates, ironing the denim and sewing.

“The students already have enough squares done for one quilt,” Duncan said. “We’ll have more finished quilts this time than last semester with seven or eight quilts.”

Mariann Hilz, who is an employee at Iowa Western and a long-time seamstress, is also helping students with the project.

While loaning a sewing machine to the classroom, she said she discovered students were discarding the zippers and pockets on the jeans, so she asked if she could keep them instead.

Hilz said she will use the zippers and pockets to make blankets with her sewing group, Sewing Some Love, for Alzheimer’s patients in Council Bluffs.

“They’re smaller like a lap blanket,” Hilz said. “We put zippers and snaps on them, anything that a person can fidget with that helps stimulates the Alzheimer’s mind.”

Duncan was happy to give the leftover pieces to Hilz, so every piece of the jeans would be used, she said.

Students will spend the next few weeks working on the blankets. Once they’re completed, the students will hand deliver them to the Open Door Mission in May.

“Service learning is important so students can help our community,” Duncan said. “It creates an awareness for other people because so many things tear us apart as people and projects like this bring students together because underneath it all - we’re all people.”


Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, https://www.nonpareilonline.com

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