In 1992, Carolyn Boxmeyer delivered her first package of 10 quilts to a hospital with mothers and babies in need. The previous year she had joined ABC Quilts, an organization founded in 1988 to provide homemade quilts to at-risk babies born HIV-positive or affected by their mother’s drug or alcohol abuse. For Boxmeyer, the challenge didn’t arise from finding volunteers to donate the quilts, but rather from finding enough places to take the quilts.
“Everybody would ask who are you and what are you selling,” Boxmeyer recalled. “I said I’m a volunteer, I’m trying to give you something.”
In 2019, Boxmeyer still works scrupulously to put handmade quilts in the hands of mothers or around the babies who need them. But the circumstances have changed quite a bit. The National ABC Quilts program disbanded in 2006, and many people helping out Boxmeyer either passed away or retired at that point.
Boxmeyer didn’t let that stop her.
“My quilt makers didn’t go away and my recipient organizations didn’t go away, and that’s why I had no intention of stopping,” she said.
Boxmeyer now single-handedly runs the St. Stephen’s Quilt Project out of St. Stephen’s United Church in Tacony, with the church allowing her to stay there rent free. She still delivers about a thousand quilts per year in her solo effort – though she said she used to give out 2,000 or more in the heyday.
The only money raised goes toward shipping expenses, with Boxmeyer estimating she has a budget in the hundreds per year for shipping to nearby areas like Delaware County. Boxmeyer’s work is entirely voluntary.
“I gave music lessons privately and gave that up, and I worked at the Mann Center as an usher for 10 years and I don’t think I can go back right now,” she said of the paid positions she sacrificed to have time to continue collecting and delivering the quilts.
All the tables in a side room at St. Stephen’s were packed with quilts, boxes and sewing machines last week as Boxmeyer prepared to deliver a shipment of 200 quilts to Maternity Care Coalition. The organization provides resources to needy families with children from birth to 3 years old.
Packing the quilts into different garbage bags organized by size, Boxmeyer and Michelle Sutton, the representative from MCC, moved the bags to the van. The quilts will be donated to moms at the Global Big Latch On event at Franklin Square Park on Aug. 2.
“You don’t find many people willing to donate time, but as far as quilts and blankets that our moms are so grateful to receive, we’re so thankful for anyone in our community willing to do that,” Sutton said.
Boxmeyer can be reached at 267-974-4702 by those whom wish to donate quilts or help out in any way. She can also provide shipping instructions for those who do not wish to travel.
“It’s a personal act of comfort,” she said. “It doesn’t feed anybody, it doesn’t clothe them and it doesn’t medicate anybody, but it’s a way of saying you’re sick or you’re alone, and we care about you.” ••