Piecing a New Life Together

By Spencer Morgan

Ruth Kennedy had some scraps of fabric leftover from making clothes over the years for her family. Living now in a town far from the one she had called home, Kennedy decided to visit a local quilt shop to see what she could piece together from her collection. 

What she found there was so much more than she could have imagined.

The quilt shop introduced Kennedy to the Lady of the Quilt Guild. Joining the guild would launch a whole new life – one with a rich social network, a new business and an opportunity to grow and stretch as a leader.

For Kennedy, now 71, the early days in the guild were a whirlwind of learning and new faces. “At first, it’s confusing because they have so many different things that they do…your head just kind of spins the first meeting or so,” she said. This initial excitement quickly turned into passionate involvement. Since joining in 2007, she’s served on multiple committees, done two terms as president and is currently serving as guild treasurer. 

 “I never did any public speaking in my whole life until I was in the guild,” she said, recalling her first experience leading a meeting with over 70 people in attendance. 

Kennedy found herself running quilt retreats which spurred her to stitch an even more ambitious entrepreneurial thread.

“I opened a quilt shop here on the farm,” she said, still seemingly astonished by the turn her life had taken. 

Scrappy Girls Quilt Shop is open Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a ‘she-shack’ in between the hay barn and the regular barn with a couple of chairs on the deck. People can get eggs too while they’re there.

“It’s a very social place. Today a lady brought me all her husband’s shirts. She wants three table runners and four pillows made out of her husband’s shirts because he passed away.”

This new life filled with deep connections and support networks is a stark contrast to her life before joining the guild.

“I lived in Bradenton, Manatee County for years and probably only had two or three people I considered friends. But up here, when I joined the Guild, I probably sew with about 10 of them every Monday,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said her experience is not uncommon in the Guild. She recounted stories of other members who joined the guild, seeking connection after a dramatic change in their life circumstances.

“There are five or six people I know where their husbands pass away and a friend says, you might want to learn how to quilt, and they join the guild,” she said. “And they’re just like, but I don’t know how to sew. And next thing you know, they’re taking classes and they’re coming to every sit-and-sew. And it’s really made a big difference. Sometimes they don’t make anything really fancy. But they get the fellowship.”

Last year, the guild joined the Grouper network and began promoting the benefit to its members. The impact of the Grouper benefit on the guild has been multifaceted. Yes, the eligible members – 21 and counting – appreciate having their dues reimbursed. And, sure, it’s nice that the club no longer has to charge a dollar at the church door on account of the money it makes as a Grouper marketing partner.

“It also makes members feel good!” Kennedy said. “They feel like they’re helping the club, and they like that their health plan is supporting their involvement in the guild.”

Several guild members have even decided to switch to a participating health plan.

 “They’re saying, well, this will help the guild and it’ll help me,” she said.

The guild’s impact extends beyond its growing membership, touching the broader community. From Quilts of Valor to projects for local cancer centers, the guild’s philanthropic efforts are a testament to its members’ generosity and community spirit. The group is now working on quilts for a project that provides beds for children who don’t have them. 

Kennedy’s journey began with scraps of her past and a search for something novel. From that, she has crafted a second chapter for herself that is as rich, vibrant and warm as any quilt she could imagine. As for the future, Kennedy sees quilting as more than a pastime; it’s a lifelong journey.

“I’ve got to live a lot longer,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff to do.”