Frances Stauffer
Photo by Jennifer Steiner

Frances Stauffer shows one of the wall hangings she designed and pieced for the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale. Stauffer has been donating quilts and wall hangings since the relief sale began 46 years ago.

Frances Stauffer, from Goshen, Ind., has been donating quilts and wall hangings to the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale since the very first sale 46 years ago. Stauffer, who celebrated her 102nd birthday in November, has decided 2013 was her final year.

Although she doesn’t have a total count, Stauffer has donated an incredible amount of sewing pieces to the relief sale, anywhere from 50 to 60 pieces per year. Her quilts and wall hangings have raised thousands of dollars for MCC’s relief, development and peace work around the world.

In 2001, Stauffer pieced together a quilted wall hanging titled “New York City at Night” which brought more than $12,000 at the sale for MCC. The quilt was eventually sent to New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Stauffer’s love for sewing began when she was young. “I remember as a little girl sitting out on the porch steps making doll dresses,” said Stauffer. After she got married, Stauffer worked as a dress maker and seamstress. Eventually she started making quilts and went from there to smaller wall hangings.

Most of her donations over the past number of years have been unfinished pieces that she has designed and pieced together, which can be quilted to make wall hangings or pillows. For the past 10 years, a group that calls themselves “Frances and Friends” has purchased some of these unfinished pieces and then proceeded to quilt them and bring them back to the quilt auction for sale the following year.

Stauffer has used a variety of themes for her pieces, although she’s partial to flowers and birds in her designs. “I always have my eyes open for ideas,” she said. “I don’t quilt anymore, but I still see things all around.”

When asked why she’s given so much time and energy to make these quilts and wall hangings over the years, Stauffer replied, “I enjoy the work, and it’s a worthy cause.”