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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ During normal times, the LUL (Love U Lots) Quilting Group of High Springs focuses on making charity quilts. However, with the arrival of Covid-19, the group refocused and expanded a considerable portion of their efforts to meet a new need: face masks.

The talent to help meet a critical need began over 10 years ago when Sharlene Hotary was searching for an indoor, cold, or rainy-day hobby and went to a class at the High Springs Branch of the Alachua County Library District. There she was introduced to the art of quilting. Soon Hotary was making quilts, often not knowing who the recipient of the gift would be.

A visiting friend at the time, Helen LeBrun, who was a patient/support hospice volunteer, saw the quilting efforts and suggested that a nice, warm quilt would help senior hospice patients who are often chilly and using a wheelchair to be more comfortable. These colorful and cheery quilts would also remind the patients that they are cared for and not forgotten by their community.

Hotary took to the task, and as word spread, donations of fabric started arriving. Two retired friends, Laura Nielsen and Janis Youngblood, joined the effort. A year later these three friends were meeting weekly to quilt in Hotary’s home.

Hotary’s husband, David, lent his expert design and engineering handiwork to create a professionally appointed and well-stocked quilting room, which has evolved with each passing year. Although the composition of the LUL group sometimes changes, the mission does not: use quilting talents to spread love in the community.

Over the years, quilts made by the LUL group have also been donated for raffles sponsored by the City of High Springs for Pioneer Days and to the High Springs Playhouse in support of local community programs. Peaceful Paths of Gainesville and the Wounded Warrior organization have also received several quilts.

In 2011, Hotary was presented with the Non-Patient-Support Outstanding Volunteer Service Award by Hospice of Citrus and the Nature Coast (currently known as VITAS Healthcare). More recently in 2019, the LUL Quilting Group made 89 quilts for VITAS Healthcare and 18 quilts for the Shands NICU. The NICU quilts are donated through the Tree City Quilters Guild.

In March of this year, it became evident that there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel throughout the country in the fight against Covid-19.

The LUL Group learned that the VA in Gainesville was recruiting quilters and seamstresses to make cloth face masks to be used in nonmedical settings to preserve the dwindling supply of PPE. Today anyone entering the VA facility even for a routine appointment must be wearing a face covering of some kind.

With the arrival of COVID-19, quilting meetings were discontinued, but the group’s mission did not change, and the needs of the community continued. And now there is great demand for cloth face masks.

Unfortunately, it was necessary for the LUL Group to discontinue in-person quilting to ensure the safety of quilters and their families. It was then that Hotary began preparing kits that included fabric cut to specification and all the other supplies needed to make either a quilt top or 10 face masks. The group’s volunteer quilters pick up kits to sew at their homes and then drop off projects with no-contact procedures in place.

Hotary quilts the quilt tops on a longarm machine and applies binding and follows up by making sure the finished product reaches the intended charity group. The charity work has continued and even expanded. By the end of Apri1, the group had donated 47 quilts to VITAS and two quilts to the Shands NICU. They have also sewn over l,200 face masks, approximately half of which have been donated to the VA Medical Center in Gainesville. These masks were made according to the specifications supplied by VA Voluntary Services.

The LUL Quilting Group is working harder than ever but with a severely diminished supply of fabric. Donations of l00 percent cotton fabric are critically needed to continue their efforts. Contact Sharlene Hotary at 352-214-1481 or Cindy Sheeley at the Consider the Lilies Thrift Shop at 23560 N.W. Railroad Avenue in High Springs. Financial donations are also welcomed to help defray the costs of other supplies like elastic, interfacing, needles, thread, batting. The LUL group supports the local community by purchasing supplies whenever possible from Julie’s Pins and Needles Quilt Shop, which is also located in High Springs.

Whether through the creation of colorful quilts or critically needed face masks, the LUL Quilting Group continues their mission of spreading love in the community through their quilting talents.

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