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'Stitching Hens': Elderly Brazos Valley women join forces to help others

Close up of sewing machine
Posted at 8:25 AM, Nov 10, 2022

MADISONVILLE, TEXAS — Inside the quiet, historical First Methodist Church in Madisonville is a group of anything but.

“We enjoy our fellowship," Jody Gantz said with a smile. “We just enjoy it.”

Standing inside of fellowship hall, watching women stream in, with sewing machines in hand.

“Some people come and go,” Gantz explained. “Some people can't come till later.”

Open your ears; all you hear is laughter, needles threading string and of course, a little bit of town gossip.

One thing is obvious though, this group of over 20 women are stitching together memories that will last a lifetime.

“We meet almost…nothing stops us,” Gantz said while laughing.

Gantz has met with these ladies and has sat behind her sewing machine since 1994.

“Even though my health isn’t what it used to be, I still go at it,” she said, smiling.

She’s not alone.

Jody Gantz holds up picture of her mother, Peggy
Jody Gantz holds up picture of her mother, Peggy.

“This is my mother,” she started as she showed a photo of her mother, Peggy Manlove, in a frame.

“She’s passed now but she’s always with me when I’m sewing.”

She placed the photo back on the workspace in front of her.

Manlove and Gantz often spent Tuesdays together with this group, the 'Stitching Hens.'

Tammy Smith with Completed Quilt.PNG
Tammy Smith spreads out her completed quilt.

“It means a lot,” she said. “I miss her so much and she did some awesome work.”

When Jody’s mother died in hospice, she donated a quilt to the center and knew from that point forward she wouldn’t stop.

“[The hospice workers] were so good to her,” she explained. “It’s so satisfying to me to be able to do this.”

Jody and the woman next to her, Patricia Cool, often blame Georgia Taylor for starting the group after she taught them how to quilt for $25.

Two ladies showing their quilts
Two ladies with the Stitching Hens shows off their quilt.

”Look at what we get back,” Cool said, thinking about all of the donations they’ve made over the years. “We get back more than what we give.”

Each small and sometimes intricate square goes toward making a bigger picture, even if it’s not so pretty.

“That's exactly why we do it because we do want to help someone,” Gantz began. “Whether it be a child or adult or whatever, we want to try to make someone feel better and help them in any way we can.”

These quilts find everyone from Veterans, neglected animals, orphans in Japan, children with terminal disease and even the Madison County Sheriff’s Office who use the quilts to comfort kids removed from traumatic situations.

Close up of sewing machine
Close up of woman stitching her purse together.

“It's a very powerful feeling,” Sheriff Bobby Adams said, thinking about how it feels to help children in these types of situations. “I don't really know how to put that into words, I don't.”

While these 20-something ladies have helped 100s across the state, one person continues to look down on them, each stitch of the way.

“I mean, she's always with me, but definitely on Tuesday,” Gantz said while thinking of her mother.