A newborn baby in Maua, Kenya. A woman undergoing breast cancer treatment in Houston. A schoolboy in Belize.
Worlds apart, yet, connected by a common thread – all recipients of handcrafted gifts sewn, crocheted and knitted by members of Memorial Drive UMC’s Common Thread Circle.
One of the oldest and most active circles within MDUMC’s United Women of Faith organization, Common Thread has been meeting since 1997. Their hats, scarves, blankets, “critters” and heart-shaped pillows have found their way around the world, bringing a bit of comfort to more than 125,000 people, large and small.
In 2022 alone, the ladies made 5,216 donations to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mission trips to foreign countries, charitable organizations providing aid to hurricane victims, and others.
Common Thread founding members first gathered at the church 25 years ago. Because of limited space, they moved to a nearby Starbucks where regular customers got to know the ladies and started donating fabric and spreading the word about the ladies’ mission.
And even though they loved meeting at the coffee shop (they even purchased a vacuum cleaner so they could tidy up the rugs before leaving), the Circle soon outgrew its space and went back to meeting at the church.
For two hours each Monday afternoon, 25 to 30 Circle members meet to stuff and sew closed heart-shaped pillows and animals that have been cut out, washed and ironed, and sewn by other volunteers working from home. Others crochet and knit lap blankets, hats and scarves. The ladies turn out approximately 75 pieces a week.
“One of the things I love about the Circle is that it includes ladies from so many denominations and that we assist other churches like Spring Branch Presbyterian and St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in their mission efforts,” says Circle Co-chair Mary Brannies.
No project is ever too daunting for Common Thread to tackle. Last year, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the group answered the call to make 125 pink scarves and hats and was honored for its work at Methodist Medical Center’s “Blessing of the Gifts” event.
“One of the most moving things to me is seeing a breast cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy treatment with her arms wrapped around one of our pink heart-shaped pillows,” says Rima Blanc.
More often than not, Common Thread members don’t see the true outcome of their work as it goes in so many directions.
They missed seeing the smiles on the faces of children who received Child Care Bags that included one of their stuffed animals after the Texas Annual Conference Mission Center helped families affected by a hurricane in Louisiana.
They never watched pediatric surgeons make simple drawings on the white “therapy dolls” showing their smallest patients where they were going to give a shot or put a bandage.
Leslie Antley, who singlehandedly knitted and crocheted more than 500 hats for Houston’s Interfaith Ministries Refugee Services and a 2022 mission trip to Kenya, didn’t see the outcome of her work.
Yet, Common Thread members keep on sewing, knowing that their handiwork makes a difference to someone, somewhere.
A note from HCA West Houston Medical Center recently shared these sentiments: “Today was a good day to pass out pillows: A crying mother of an infant in the ICU, the daughter of a patient who just lost her 12-year-old son, and to a lady who had a stroke and was delighted to have the heart pillow. I left a pillow for the unit secretary in the ER. Her back pain was flaring up and the pillow provided comfort while she finished her long work day. Everyone wants me to convey how much they love and find comfort with the heart pillows.”
Common Thread welcomes all women of all denominations. It meets from 2 to 4 p.m. on Mondays in Memorial Drive United Methodist Church’s Wesley Hall.