A quilter’s legacy of generosity

Emma Jean Landis pieced more than 650 quilts and comforters for MCC

Jan 14, 2019 by and

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Emma Jean Landis saw a need and found a way to fill it. She was just that kind of person.

One of the many ways the late Tunkhannock, Pa., resident did so was by quilting and making comforters for Mennonite Central Committee with her daughter Karen Alderfer of Athens, Pa.

Ken Landis In 2018, Emma Jean Landis of Tunkhannock, Pa., and her daughters, Karen Alderfer, left, and Kathy Landis, right, pose for a picture. Emma Jean Landis and Alderfer worked together to make 254 quilts to donate to MCC relief sales. — Ken Landis

In 2018, Emma Jean Landis of Tunkhannock, Pa., and her daughters, Karen Alderfer, left, and Kathy Landis, right, pose for a picture. Emma Jean Landis and Alderfer worked together to make 254 quilts to donate to MCC relief sales. — Ken Landis

Over the past eight years, they sent 254 quilts — from crib- to full-size — to 92 relief sales in 28 locations, according to Landis’ other daughter, Kathy Landis of Newton, Kan., who kept track of the donations. Generous bidders at relief sales across the U.S. and Canada bought the quilts, generating more than $41,000 in support of MCC.

Emma Jean Landis died in November but lived a life of generosity in her 82 years. She not only made quilts and comforters but supported MCC with her time and money in other ways.

“She was very giving of her time and of her resources and her talents,” Alderfer said. “I’m really going to miss quilting with her. It was a common interest — something for us to both be a part of that was bigger than us.”

In the beginning of their quilting partnership, Alderfer gave her mother charm packs — a precut collection of complementary fabrics that Landis combined with other fabric to create quilt tops.

Once a top was completed, Alderfer used her long-arm sewing machine to quilt the top, batting and back together. Her mother finished the quilt by binding the raw edges of fabric. Eventually Landis would send the quilts to the specific MCC relief sale where she thought they would sell best.

MCC relief sale coordinator Les Gustafson Zook said donated quilts from many quilters generated almost $1.3 million dollars at relief sales across Canada and the U.S. in 2017.

“Landis and Alderfer are wonderful examples of the lifeblood of relief sales — people who offer significant time, creativity and resources to share God’s love and compassion with vulnerable people around the world,” he said.

As people became aware of the mother-daughter project, fabric donations began to pour in. Alderfer and Landis sorted the fabric together, deciding what to keep for quilts and what to use for comforters. Using donated material, charm packs and a lot of their own fabric, Landis cut and pieced the quilt tops following traditional patterns and her own original designs.

Comforting passion

Besides raising money through her quilting for MCC, she also pieced and donated close to 400 comforters to MCC since 2012.

MCC sends comforters around the world to help people in crisis, often those who have been displaced from their homes. Last year, MCC shipped 63,841 comforters, including those made by Landis, to places like Burkina Faso, North Korea, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine and Zambia, as well as the U.S. and Canada.

Comforters are simpler to put together than a quilt. Often the comforter top is made of fabric squares sewn together. Instead of quilting the layers together, they are knotted together.

When the women’s group at Landis’ church, First Baptist in Factoryville, Pa., was looking for something to do, she suggested they start a comforter-knotting circle. She made the comforters and the women knotted them.

Likewise, when the sewing circle at Towamencin Mennonite Church in Kulpsville, Pa., had no one to sew comforter tops, Landis made them for the group. Her family attended Towamencin as Landis was growing up.

Landis had seen a need and found a way to fill it — again.

“At least eight times a year for four to five years, my mom would drive two hours south with a car full of comforters for MCC and [comforter] tops for the Towamencin sewing circle,” Alderfer said. “She’d drop off the comfort­ers at MCC, take the tops to Tow­amencin and pick up precut patch­es that she then would take home and sew into comforter tops.”

A deeper connection

Landis’ connection to MCC went beyond blankets.

From 1994 to 1998, Landis, a nurse, and her husband, Laverne, a family practice physician, served with MCC in Jamaica. Landis traveled to villages to give children immunizations, provide prenatal care and offer health education classes for women.

“They were both challenging and good years,” Landis told Kathy before she died. “I enjoyed working with a local nurse and co-leading educational classes.”
She and Laverne also gave money to build two additions to Mengo Hospital Home Care and Counseling Clinic in Kampala, Uganda, increasing its capacity to help people living with HIV and AIDS. Their late daughter, Konnie, had volunteered at the clinic.

Landis encouraged the 30 people who attended First Baptist Church to donate 2,600 school and hygiene kits since 2009.

“My mom motivated people to support MCC wherever she was,” Kathy Landis said.


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