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Ellerslie quilters provide comfort, hope for victims of domestic violence

A group of women in Ellerslie is lovingly stitching quilts for people they have never met before -- women and their children who find shelter at Hope Harbour, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter and services for victims of domestic violence in the region.

One of the quilters recently identified herself as having been a victim of domestic violence and said that adds special meaning to the bright, cheerful quilts she and others have been making at Sunday Best Quiltworks, which is a short drive from Peachtree Mall on the Manchester Expressway.

"Having been in their situation, I understand how hard it is to make the decision to leave," Vickie Gillespie of Cataula said recently while she sewed in the cheerful classroom at Sunday Best.

"To be able to give them something that somebody took the time to make just for them" is heartening, Gillespie said. "It's new, and so much of what they get is used. This is something brand new, just for them."

She's been quilting since 2003, and was making a quilt top out of fabric she brought from home. Gillespie enjoys quilting because she has problems with her eyes and "the perspective for painting just isn't there."

All the women interviewed, including Sunday Best co-owners Linda Camp and Teresa Singleton, spoke of the creative outlet that quilting provides. It's a way to express themselves and have hand-made gifts for family members and friends. It's also calming. Camp jokingly called it "tactile Prozac."

They had an idea to make quilts to give away, but didn't have a "home" for the quilts. A customer who was an auxiliary member of Hope Harbour told them how, often, the women come straight from home or the emergency room to the shelter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now they will be able to pick from a group of brightly colored quilts, and they will get to keep them.

"We talked to the ladies around here, and 12 to 15 showed up the first Thursday," Singleton said, adding, "We cut and worked all day long. We have about 20 finished."

Camp described the project as "close to home, close to heart."

In addition to the quilts women make at the shop, they would welcome any quilt tops or quilts people would like to donate. The only thing they don't need is more fabric.

They are aiming to make quilts that are more appropriate for little boys, as they have many that are suitable for women and girls, Camp said.

Leeann Scogin of Waverly Hall was sewing during a recent visit to Sunday Best. She has been quilting for eight or nine years and has just started doing quilting that goes beyond basic designs.

"I enjoy the creative aspect of it, learning different techniques," she said. She was originally involved with a group that did quilts to give away to a children's hospital. Now she's glad to be making them to give to Hope Harbour. "Someone will appreciate them," Scogin added.

Mary Johnson, who lives near Mountain Hill School, said she's been quilting since 2005. "To me, it's stress relief. It's an opportunity to be away from home to do what I want to do. I come over here and do nothing but sew and talk," she said.

"I think this is a wonderful project," Johnson said. "I get to do what I love to do and donate to someone I think would appreciate it."

Diane Hett, executive director of Hope Harbour, said they are excited to receive the quilts.

"Most importantly, it means so much to the women in the shelter to know that people in the community care about them," Hett said. "Having homemade quilts in bright colors is going to take the institutional bedrooms from looking like an institution to looking like home."

Leaving a domestic violence situation is a difficult and life-altering decision, she said.

"We all love quilts, and that they would take that much time to create something to donate to people they don't know," Hett said. "I'm excited about their willingness to do this."

Hope Harbour has many needs, and you can learn how to donate at www.hopeharbour.org Because the shelter is in an undisclosed location, they make arrangements to pick up donations at a designated site. Financial donations can be made through Pay Pal on the website.

To learn more about Sunday Best Quiltworks, visit the website at www.sundaybestquiltworks.com , call 706-569-7744, or take the short drive out to Ellerslie. They have classes for beginners and all skill levels, and Camp and Singleton consider themselves fortunate to have turned a passion into a profession.

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