JOPLIN — For the passengers displaced in Saturday’s tragic Amtrak derailment, Montana’s Hi-Line might have felt like the middle of nowhere. But as they quickly found out, sometimes the best people in the world come from the middle of nowhere.
Look no further than the Quilting Ladies of Joplin, which formed in 1967. They range in age from 72 to 92 and meet every Tuesday at the Bethel Lutheran church for friendship, fellowship and quilting.
“Sometimes we don’t get a lot of quilting done, we just do a lot of visiting,” said 79-year old member Jean Johnson.
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The group works for hours making quilts of all shapes, colors, and sizes and then stockpiles them in the basement of the church.
“We probably send out about 500 quilts a year or better,” said Barb Cady, the youngest member at 72. “We make about eight a day.”
For what purpose? They don’t always know. They just make them for when the need arises. But on Saturday night, as fate would have it, their work was needed more than ever.
Betty Wolery is the mother-in-law of Liberty County Sheriff Nick Erickson and a member of the quilting group. When she got the call that there was an emergency, she knew the quilts could be put to good use.
“I was in Choteau and my daughter called about getting quilts because they needed some and I said absolutely,” Betty said. “There’s a whole pile, sitting on a table downstairs, just go get them.”
Betty’s daughter Julie Erickson grabbed the quilts and distributed them to passengers at the Liberty County Community Center.
“You know it just gave you a good feeling,” said 86-year old Fern Wolery. “When you get older, you don’t accomplish a lot but this way, you accomplished something.”
“It’s kind of fun to know that somebody is going to enjoy something that you did,” added Barb.
The quilters were just one of many groups that came to the aid of passengers in need that night.
Liberty County DES coordinator Sarah Robbin saw it first-hand.
“This is Montana, this is neighbors helping neighbors. Anybody will see somebody on the side of the road and will stop to help them, and it’s great.”
“Wherever there is a need, wherever there’s a call to do something we do it,” said Betty. “I think we are God’s hands and feet and heart.”
The majority of what they make is donated within the community to graduating seniors, new mothers, or hospital patients.
But at the end of the year, the Joplin quilters donate all of their remaining quilts to the Lutheran World Relief Center to be distributed around the world to those in need.