Living Threads Entwines Memory Quilts with Overseas Support

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Living Threads 235 No. 1(l to r) Living Threads founder Jill Dannenberg and operations manager Michelle Grabill. When Living Threads founder Jill Dannenberg receives the garments once worn by a deceased loved one that will be used to make a memorial quilt, it's handled with tender loving care.

"When people bring us their clothing, it's sacred material," Dannenberg said. "The volunteers are not allowed to bring that material home. When they're completed, the memorial quilts become a conversation piece because the quilt makes it comfortable for people to talk about the one they lost."

Dannenberg was operating a successful embroidery shop in Zeeland called Sew What Embroidery, when a prayer changed the direction of her life.

"I sensed God wanted me to sell the business," Dannenberg said, "which I sold in two weeks."

The reason for selling the business five years ago was to launch the Christ-centered ministry she has today, Living Threads, which makes memorial quilts for those grieving the loss of a relative or friend out the deceased person's garments. Memorial quilts also can be made using photos of the person, or appropriate Bible verses or poems, which are transferred onto a quilt.

So far, 226 memory quilts have been made, ranging in size from pillows to king size, according to Dannenberg. That equates to 57,000 yards of thread over a five-year period. The largest quilt order Dannenberg received from one family is 18 quilts. Around 20 volunteers make the quilts. They have poured 6,659 volunteer hours into Living Threads since 2012.

Proceeds benefit least of these in Kibera

Proceeds from the quilts help fund IN Network USA and its work in the Kibera slum of Kenya. Programs there include a Saturday school program that is open to all children who live in Kibera, a nutritious meal, which may be the only serving of food they receive that day, Bible teaching and mentoring.

Kibera is adjacent to the city Nairobi, and is the largest slum in Africa, with more than one million people living in an area of about 1.5 square miles. Most of Kibera slum residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.00 per day. Unemployment rates are high.

There are few schools in Kibera, and most people cannot afford an education for their children. Clean water is scarce and is the source of many water-borne illnesses.

To date Living Threads has donated $35,670 to IN Network USA, according to Dannenberg.

From garage to City on a Hill

Dannenberg initially operated Living Threads out of her garage the first year. A Bible study she attended at City on a Hill caught her attention to considering renting at COH. Her ministry is one of about 40 Christian ministries and nonprofits that rent here at 100 Pine Street that formerly was the Zeeland Community Hospital.

"I felt impressed of God to move here," she said. "I saw a room available for rent but had no money."

Dannenberg said she prayed to the Lord to receive funds for four months of rent.

Soon after that prayer, City on a Hill executive director Gary Ellens shared the good news with Dannenberg that its board of directors approved giving Living Threads six months of free rent.

Then, donations eventually made it possible for Dannenberg to tell Ellens she would accept only four months of rent at no charge because that is what she originally asked the Lord for.

Moving to COH has been a great fit, Dannenberg said. She's eventually moved to a larger space within the same building.

"It's given us a lot of networking and awareness," she said.


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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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