History of quilts will be on display in Chambersburg

January 15, 2006|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL


During World War II, American and Canadian women handcrafted quilts to send to people fleeing the ravages of war in Europe.

More than 60 years later, 18 of the quilts have come back to the United States and will be on display Jan. 16 to 27 at the Cumberland Valley Relief Center.

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is sponsoring the three-year traveling exhibit through the United States and Canada. The local stop is the 26th on the tour.

The Mennonite Central Committee is a relief and development organization of Mennonites, Brethren in Christ and Amish in the United States and Canada. Each year, the committee sends nearly 100,000 comforters and blankets to people suffering from natural and man-made disasters, most recently 14,500 to survivors of hurricanes Rita and Katrina and 70,000 to Sudan.


The quilts and comforters sent to the Netherlands in the 1940s were used by refugees sheltered by Dutch Mennonites. Many of the refugees were Mennonites fleeing the Soviet Union at the end of the war.

The exhibit accompanies a new book titled "Passing on the Comfort: The War, the Quilts and the Women Who Made a Difference," which tells the true story of two women, An Keuning-Tichelaar, a Dutch Mennonite active in the nonviolent resistance to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and Lynn Kaplanian-Buller, an American who rediscovered the quilts years later.

Included in the display are two new quilts and the stories behind them to show what currently is being done to "pass on the comfort."

According to Lois Flickinger of Lititz, Pa., project manager for Passing on the Comfort, most of the quilts were stitched in Mennonite sewing circles.

Some, however, were family heirlooms given to those less fortunate, and are much older than the 1940s. The fabric on the Log Cabin quilt is believed to be from the Civil War era, she said.

Some of the quilts are in well-known patterns; others are of older, lesser-known designs such as Hole in the Barn Door and Goose in a Pond.

While it might be cheaper and less time-consuming to purchase blankets for relief, the comforters and quilts are more personal, Flickinger said.

"These are a gift of love, and that is amazing to the recipients," many of whom have lost houses, loved ones and trust, Flickinger said. "Blankets keep you warm. Comforters warm your heart, soul and body."

About 35 local volunteers will staff the 12-day exhibit at the relief center.

When the three-year tour is over, the quilts will become part of a new Mennonite Information Center in Holland.

Susan Wadel, director of the Cumberland Valley Relief Center, said that the exhibit serves as "a way for the larger community to learn about what we do here."

During the exhibit, visitors may try their hands at knotting a bed cover.

"We encourage hands-on with the comfort-knotting," Wadel said. "We are still 'passing on the comfort' in 2006."

If you go


"Passing on the Comfort: The War, the Quilts and the Women Who Made a Difference"


Jan. 16 to 27. Exhibit hours are Monday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Cumberland Valley Relief Center, 4225 Molly Pitcher Highway S., Chambersburg, Pa.

For information, call the Cumberland Valley Relief Center at 717-375-2088 or send e-mail to

More information about "Passing on the Comfor" may be found at

"Passing on the Comfort: The War, the Quilts and the Women Who Made a Difference."

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