VOLUNTEER FUN

Glancing at the clock, I stood and smiled when both its hands were straight up. I get to help out at 12:30.

Minutes later, I drove toward Goshen, Indiana’s Fairgrounds. Like cheerleaders shaking pom-poms, maple trees waved red, orange and many still-green leaves as I passed.

Forecasters had predicted another hot, sunny day near 90. Yet, I wore jeans. Shorts are inappropriate. Skirts might not be good. I don’t know what reaching or bending I’ll be doing. How does one cover a quilt with plastic?

My CRV’s air-conditioning whispered cool secrets as I turned east toward the 50th Michiana (Michigan-Indiana) Mennonite Relief Sale. The event was to begin at 5:00. I’ve never been this early before!

In the late ‘90s, a classmate had introduced me to “the quilt sale.” Since then I had attended whenever I was in the north during September. This year, I had volunteered to join five other ladies to cover the donated quilts with clear plastic before Friday evening’s public display.

Finished quilt display

Finished quilt display

Commonly, more than 200 pieced designs would hang on an overhead wood structure that reminded me of a giant clothes drying rack. Perspective buyers and others came to study the quilts and admire the women’s handiwork.

My watch read 12:20 when I entered the large auction building smelling faintly of coffee. Workers bustled in all the four corners I surveyed. Left of the central auction stage, large and small, new and antique items were being assembled for sale: a kayak, several TVs, a roll top desk, antique glassware, and a meat smoker to name a few.

Right of the stage, on the overhead rack, a few quilts had been covered with clear plastic and hung. Maybe there were morning work teams!

Near the door, I picked up a quilt sale booklet. It listed the donor, name, pattern and size of each quilt. I’d like to buy a twin-size Grandmother’s Flower Garden to replace the one Mother gave me 40 years ago.

I remembered that day. Eyes gleaming, she had directed, “Now Fritzie, don’t store this away! It’s for you to use and enjoy.”

I did, too! Sadly, the old material was now full of holes and beyond repair. The old cotton quilts didn’t use the durable polyester blend fabric and thread.

I browsed the twenty hanging quilts and shrugged. No flower gardens! I probably could not afford one anyway.

After exploring, I joined the gals from church. Our crew of 6 stood near one of three plastic-covered tables about the size of a ping pong table. None of us had any experience with quilt covering and waited instruction.

I studied the table. A roll of plastic was at one end and a yellow tape measure stuck to the opposite end. Small foil cups of straight pins had been stapled to opposite sides. How will this work?

Minutes later, a woman from the quilt-prep committee bustled over. Reaching and bending, she demonstrated how to measure each quilt and record the size on its tag. Next, we wrapped the quilt in clear plastic, and pinned or stapled it closed.

Our table and another at work.Our table and another at work.

Our table and another at work.

Discussing the matter at hand, we ladies found a flow to the three tasks. I concentrated on my part. We talked little. Despite overhead fans and opened doors, after an hour I felt warm and damp.

At about 2:00 we took a break. Coffee, mint tea, cold water and lemonade waited on a long table. Homemade treats of every description waited in Tupperware containers: cookies, brownies, bars, two cakes as well as grapes and cheese.

After all three tables of volunteers took their break, we wrapped full speed! The waiting quilt pile disappeared before the 4:30 goal.

Several of my team planned to meet husbands at the food tent at 5:00 for dinner. Waiting, they sat and put their feet up. I joined them to chat.

About 4:45, I “heard” apple fritters “calling” and bid the ladies good-bye.

Men making apple fritters.

Men making apple fritters.

Holding the fritter in a white paper bag, I got in the CRV. Instead of turning west back toward town, I chose a slightly longer drive home. It curved through fields of yellow and gold soybeans.

The blue sky held few clouds. The fritter’s warm homemade applesauce aroma filled the car, bringing sweet memories of earlier canning years.

A perfect ending to a useful afternoon.

I am blessed.

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