Editor’s note: Make it Missoula has partnered with the University of Montana’s Online News class, taught by Jule Banville, to create a new Citizen Journalism feature that’s all about local views and issues. We’re excited to provide these students with a platform so they can objectively explore and report about the topics they think reflect the lives and times of Missoula and its citizens.
By RACHEL A. SEIDENSTICKER
The constant chatter and laughter of 30 to 40 women overwhelm the basement of Christ the King Church on a recent Tuesday in Missoula. And this is only half of the Martha Sewing Ministry family. The remaining members either participate from home or just didn’t make it for the week.
Edna Kinsella started the sewing ministry more than eight years ago with only three regular sewers. Now, members of this large group can barely stand to miss a week. It means there are more hands to help keep the coffee fresh and the baked goods passed. It also means there are a lot more finished projects to be donated, including prayer shawls, hats and mittens for schools, pillow case dresses for girls in Ethiopia, ties and beanies for men and women in the armed services, and burp cloths and blankets for hospitals.
Although Kinsella is the founder, she doesn’t run this lively bunch by herself. Mary Watchel has been Edna’s right-hand woman for many years. If Kinsella has to stay away, Watchel guides the group projects, directs women to the correct supplies, and leads the closing prayer. And, she isn’t the only one. “By now, there are many women who can step up and know what to do,” Kinsella said.
The sewing group survives purely on donations for material—thread, fabric, yarn and money donations to buy what members need.
Initially, the Tuesday gathering appears a little intimidating. A newcomer can get overwhelmed by the numerous busy hands, intimate conversations, and the overpowering echo of the basement. But these ladies make anyone feel at home. Just ask Lou Ann Sharkey and Mary Haniszewski. They both said it took them some time before they felt comfortable joining the ministry. Now, they’re here every week.
It’s not all about sewing. These women participate in the sewing ministry not only to give their time but to fill their time. Many women are widowed and are seeking connections. The ministry is an outlet to provide charity as well as a support group for the terminally ill, a place to mourn the loss of loved ones — spouses and children – and a community to find and nourish friendships.
Rachel A. Seidensticker is a senior studying journalism at the University of Montana.
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