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June 10, 2014 7:18 am

Quilt maker helping Class of 1949 raise money for Backpacks program

Written by Tom Lawrence

This quilt made by Mary Wenzel (right) is on display at the First Bank of Wyoming. The Powell High School Class of 1949, represented by Mary Ann Northrup (left) and Mary Brasher, is raffling it off to raise money for the Backpack Blessings Project. This quilt made by Mary Wenzel (right) is on display at the First Bank of Wyoming. The Powell High School Class of 1949, represented by Mary Ann Northrup (left) and Mary Brasher, is raffling it off to raise money for the Backpack Blessings Project. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

The Powell High School Class of 1949 wanted to do something special for its 65th reunion.

Special for someone else, that is.

The class decided to raise money and donate it to the Backpack Blessings Project, which raises money to help ensure needy kids don’t go hungry. The class, which will join other Panther alumni at the Alumni Weekend festivities on June 27-29, is raffling off a quilt.

Donna Brasher and Mary Ann Northrup, both 83 and members of the Class of ’49, said they wanted to do something for the reunion. Raising money for hungry kids seemed like a good idea, Brasher said, crediting Northrup with coming up with the idea.

“We don’t need it for us as a class, and we want to give back to the Powell school,” Brasher said. “And I think it’s time for us to focus on helping people at home, not overseas. I’m on my soapbox about that.”

Tickets are on sale at the American Legion, the Eagles Lodge, the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce or from Class of 1949 members. They are $1 apiece or six for $5.

The winning ticket will be drawn at the PHS Alumni Banquet on Saturday, June 28. The Class of ’49 had 99 members; 30 are deceased but 43 people, including spouses and guests, plan to attend the class dinner.

The 36-section quilt is on display at the First Bank of Wyoming. It was stitched together by Mary Wenzel of Powell.

Wenzel isn’t a class member, having graduated from San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, Calif., in 1965. But she is friends with, and a Beta Sigma Phi sorority sister to, Brasher and Mary Ann Northrup, who are members of the Class of 1949.

They were looking for something to raffle off when they mentioned it to Wenzel.

“I said, ‘Here, have a quilt,’” she said.

In addition to being a sorority sister, Wenzel, 67, was a “quilt sister” in a club through the Cotton Patch Quilt Shoppe of Tawas City, Mich., which has an online presence.

Members mail in 36 blocks, as the square sections in a quilt are called, and the organizer divides them up. She sends each person 35 blocks to use to make a quilt with, Wenzel said, and keeps one for herself.

That allows quilt makers to have new ideas and patterns to work with, she said. Wenzel said she uses the blocks, along with the batting in the middle of the quilt, backing for the less-colorful side of the thick blankets, and adds border. Those four B’s spell warmth and comfort for quilt lovers.

Wenzel said she produces several quilts a year — “I still have a couple bags to put together here,” she said — and often gives them away to help people or groups raise money. She estimates she has made about 100 quilts in her life and given away most of them, with about 10 around her house.

It takes her about two or three days to put a quilt together but she knows people get years of comfort from them.

For Wenzel, it’s a matter of doing something she enjoys and is good at it.

“I love to make them,” Wenzel said.

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