Students Join with VMRC to Knot MCC Comforters

March 5, 2020 / Andrea Wenger

EMS students of all ages added knots to pieced comforters March 5 and 6; the blankets will be shared in the United States and around the world by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) with people who are displaced by war or natural disaster.

In chapel, students grades 6 to 12 and visiting kindergartners learned that MCC sent more than 53,000 handmade comforters to people lacking basic necessities last year. See video.

MCC distributes comforters through local agencies who know their communities and peoples’ needs. The blankets — made of scrap material for a top, a center of batting and a solid piece of backing cloth — provide a beautiful message of love in addition to providing warmth as bed covers, or for use as room dividers, carpets, curtains, wraps, mattresses and more.

This past January, as part of their centennial celebration, MCC had the Great Winter Warm Up with the goal of inviting volunteers to make 6,500 comforters. Despite heavy snowstorms in some areas, thousands of people showed up to events in January across the United States and Canada, and made more than 9,400 comforters.

Now EMS students had a chance to contribute. Throughout the day on March 5 and 6, various classes joined residents at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community who were having their annual comforter knotting blitz. Over the two days, 115 students knotted comforters at VMRC. In addition, students whose classes didn’t make it through Park Woods to the VMRC location were able to add knots to blankets set up in the library.

On Friday, the kindergarten class joined 8th graders where they paired up to sew, snip and tie. The rest of the elementary school will have their own blanket “blitz” in their building with parent and grandparent support in the coming weeks.

The VMRC comforter blitz was spearheaded for the fifth year by LuAnn Bender and Deb Layman, who both have strong ties to EMS. Both are alumni of the class of 1981 and each had several children attend the school. In addition, LuAnn was the family and consumer science teacher at the school for 15 years. Some of the older students volunteers recalled middle school sewing projects — pillows and pajama bottoms — that she had helped them with several years ago.

“It’s been just wonderful having the students here,” said LuAnn, noting that the combined effort resulted in more completed comforters — 40 — than they had had in years’ past. “It’s fun to see people catch the spirit and enjoy talking while doing something meaningful with their hands.”

The duo — LuAnn Bender and Deb Layman — has enjoyed the past five years of coordinating the VMRC blitz, but are ready to turn the project over to some new volunteers. If EMS readers have interest, reach out to EMS Advancement Office at 540-236-6026 to make a connection.

Deb and her husband Kenneth ’76 Layman run the TRIED & TRUE Thrift Shop in Harrisonburg. As cloth is donated throughout the year, Deb passes it to volunteers who create the comforter tops. Anyone interested in picking up a comforter to knot — maybe at a family reunion, employee gathering, church or friend group — can reach out to Deb at Tried and True.

Check out some more photos from this story


  1. Deb Layman on March 7, 2020 at 7:56 am

    This was a wonderful shared event with the students. Priceless conversation flowed between the generations and getting 40 comforters made for MCC over the two days was a record for our group. Thank you for joining us.

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