Quilts for refugees: Marcellus library director uses creative outlet to help others

Marcellus First Friday celebration to include quilt display at Marcellus Library

By Suzanne Lind

More than 50 colorful, artistic, hand-made quilts will be on display at the Marcellus Township Wood Memorial Library during the first Marcellus First Friday celebration on June 4, 2021 from 5 to 8 p.m.

The quilts, sometimes called comforters because they are held together by knotting rather than by stitching, were designed and pieced by Marcellus Library Director Christine Nofsinger. Family, friends, and church members helped to assemble and knot the quilts. They will be donated to the Mennonite Central Committee for distribution to refugees around the world. 

“I have been quilting for many years,” says Nofsinger. “But it was a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is famous for its beautiful, colorful, artistic cotton cloth, that really sparked my joy in the artistry of designing quilts. I love to work with all the amazing colors, designs, shapes and surprises I find in cloth.” 

After years of making quilts for family and friends, Nofsinger began to sense a change of direction in her creative urge. As she sewed, she began to think about people around the world who are suffering, especially refugees. She pondered the fact that 80 million people in the world are refugees; 31 million of them are children. Nofsinger wished that every refugee in the world could be wrapped in a warm blanket, and that each one could be surrounded by beauty. She decided to do what she loves most, giving “the best that I have,” to provide comfort and beauty for people who have been violently displaced from their homes. 

Nofsinger has made some quilts specifically for children, putting in designs and pictures that they will recognize and enjoy. She is careful to avoid any designs that might be offensive to people of other cultures. 

Friends, relatives, and church members were inspired by Nofsinger’s dream, and began to donate fabric and sewing time to the effort. When Karen Keene closed Karen’s Fabric Shop in Three Rivers, she donated a large quantity of fabric to the project. Nofsinger was encouraged by her friends Dara Reinbold from Kalamazoo and Janell Ulrich from Illinois, who were already making many fabric items for donation to people in need.

The Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite congregation near Constantine includes several quilters, and soon a quilting frame was installed in the back of the sanctuary so that sewers could work on quilts before, after, and even during worship services. The church set up a special fund to help pay expenses for thread, batting, cloth and other items. Faith Carpenter, a church member from Sturgis, has tied thousands of knots to complete many of the quilts which will be on display.

“Quilting fulfills a creative urge in my life, and now it also provides an outlet for my concern for those who are suffering,” says Nofsinger. “Having so many others involved in the process, adding their love and concern to the project, makes this an exciting and deeply meaningful experience for me. Just think of a little, lonely refugee child, wrapped in something so beautiful which carries with it the love and anguish we feel about homelessness and fear.” 

Marcellus First Fridays will be held on June 4, July 2, August 6, and September 3, 2021 in downtown Marcellus. First Fridays is a national movement to revitalize downtown areas across the United States. In many towns it includes a major focus on artists and their creations. The Marcellus events are being planned by the First Friday Taskforce of the Downtown Development Association of Marcellus, of which Nofsinger is a member.