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Women’s legacy lives on as quilts come full circle
Courtesy photo: Franklin Reinhardt, resident of Almost Home in Great Bend, poses with a donated lap quilt expertly pieced together with love and passion by his late wife LaVerne Reinhardt. A beautiful gift that came full circle thanks to the help of the Central Kansas ThreadBenders Quilt Guild that shared LaVerne’s passion and completed the 17 quilts found in her estate.
Courtesy Photo: From left: Almost Home Staff members Karly Esfeld and Tara Hazlett stand with Central Kansas ThreadBenders member Margaret Evers as she presents the gift of 17 lap quilts from the collection of LaVerne Reinhardt. The gift was made to Almost Home thanks to a donation made by the Reinhardt family and work by the Central Kansas ThreadBender’s volunteers to complete the 17 lap quilts found in LaVerne Reinhardt’s estate.

When the Central Kansas ThreadBenders Quilt Guild of Great Bend donated 17 quilts to Almost Home, no one expected that an unending dedication to a craft and a lifetime of helping others would result in an extraordinary gift, from wife to husband, more than five years after her death. 

LaVerne Reinhardt lived her life cultivating a reputation of using her talents to help others. A lifetime Great Bend resident and avid creator and dreamer, LaVerne turned her love of quilting, knitting, sewing, woodworking, crocheting and carpentry into a career and passion that lasted through the rest of her 92 years. She married her husband Franklin in 1950 and spent years as a Great Bend Main Street business owner of a quilt shop, Heirloom Creations Quilt Shop, before moving the workspace to her home. Her passion carried all the way through her life, as she was still crocheting until a week before her passing in 2016. 

Her love for her projects, and for using her work to help those in need, was evident to those in her family and helped benefit others in the area and around the world.

Her daughter Roxie Smith, of Wichita, noted, “Mom touched so many lives through her passion of quilting and creating, from her shop and lessons she taught years ago to her later years, crocheting hundreds of baby blankets for expecting mothers at a women’s ministry in Wichita and overseas missions. While my sister and I didn’t share the hobby, we knew how important it was to her and didn’t want to take for granted passing on her legacy.” 

In the summer of 2021 it was time to sell the family home, which still contained an extensive collection of LaVerne’s fabric, notions, and other materials. Her daughters, Smith and Renee Betcher, of Leesburg, Va., saw one more opportunity to honor their mother’s legacy of using her talents to help others by passing on her materials and work to those who might be able to use it.

The answer was the Central Kansas ThreadBenders Quilt Guild. A community-minded group of about 50 individuals, mostly retired, that meet once a month to learn, work together on projects and connect around a shared hobby and passion of quilting and other handwork. 

When the group accepted the donation, they assumed it would be a box of materials. But they quickly found out that LaVerne’s daughters hadn’t just provided materials to make quilts. One box was filled with 17 lap quilts already pieced together by LaVerne herself. It had been five years since she had passed, but LaVerne had already given them a big head start.

“Anytime we can do something for our community, we do it,” said Margaret Evers, program chair of the Central Kansas ThreadBenders Quilt Guild. “We’ve helped disaster victims, childhood cancer survivors, even made masks for school kids in 2020. It was a joy to finish the layering, backing, and quilting.”

Once the Quilt Guild had finished the work started by LaVerne, they donated the 17 newly made quilts to Almost Home, the only non-profit HOMEplus senior care residence in Barton County. 

As it turned out, that donation to Almost Home meant that LaVerne’s work, and her family’s generosity, would become one more gift for LaVerne’s family. Franklin, her husband of 66 years, is a resident at Almost Home.

“We could not have planned this project to have any better outcome,” said Evers.

And the family of LaVerne and Franklin could not be happier that this love and legacy continues to be a blessing at Almost Home.

“It is so special for us to know there is a piece of our mom with dad at Almost Home,” said Smith. “We are so impressed by the care and love he receives at Almost Home, it cannot be matched. Having watched mom work night after night on projects like these quilts, we know this extra piece of her is a comfort for him at the place he is now so proud to call home.”

Almost Home offers residential care, respite care and hospice/end-of-life care. Striving to help seniors like Franklin live well and age well, it is the mission of Almost Home to provide all the comforts of HOMEplus the highest quality health care. Franklin has been a resident since 2019 and his smile and energy are a delight to the residents and staff of the Almost Home family.