Locals reach out to help heal

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Pillowcases sent to add color and comfort after tragedy

Julie Petrella/Julie Petrella, owner of Home Made, and her customers, made pillowcases for a fabric shop in New Milford, Conn. to bring comfort to children affected by the Sandy Hook shooting. 
Photos by Julie Petrella/ Julie Petrella, owner of Home Made, and her customers, made pillowcases for a fabric shop in New Milford, Conn. to bring comfort to children affected by the Sandy Hook shooting.

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP- Some local Cape May County quilters and stitchers hope to bring comfort to students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. with bright patterns and simple seams. 

Julie Petrella, owner of Home Made in Swainton, as well as her customers and the Camaco Quilters Guild, donated more than 30 handmade pillowcases to a Connecticut fabric store that was looking to give 600 pillowcases to students at Sandy Hook.

“It had been on my mind, it’s such a heartbreaking situation,” Petrella said. “When you’re so far away, you wonder what you can do, and it was one small thing we could do from our little corner of New Jersey.”

Making the pillowcases was a last minute addition to a holiday party Petrella hosted at her shop Dec. 19. A customer of hers, Heather Wertzberger, had seen on a blog that Quilter’s Corner in New Milford, Conn. was looking to give 600 cases to students at Sandy Hook, and then passed the idea on to Petrella.

“I knew it was something we would be able to do here in New Jersey to provide comfort for the children there,” Wertzberger said, “I saw it and it touched my heart and I passed it on to Julie knowing that it would touch her heart as well.”

Petrella and Wertzberger both donated fabric from their stashes and the shop to create the pillowcases, which Petrella said are a tradition to make for charitable groups and organizations.

“People ask, why pillowcases?” Petrella said, “Well it’s sort of a natural assumption among quilters. They’re fun to make and relatively easy, and there is a tradition of giving pillowcases to charity.”

She added that customers at Home Made had also created pillowcases in the past for ConKerr Cancer, an organization that gives homemade pillowcases to children with cancer to brighten up hospital rooms. According to Petrella and Wertzberger, ConKerr Cancer is one of the most popular in quilting circles for donating pillowcases.

Petrella said that about 15 pillowcases were made by those customers at her holiday party, and others were given by the Camaco Quilters Guild in Lower Township.

Helen Ernst, a member of the Camacao Quilters, said the pillowcases she and her group had donated were leftovers from those they had given to local toy drives.

“As quilters, we learn and make a lot of things for ourselves, but yet we all like to do it for other people too,” Ernst said. In the past, the group has also made placemats for Meals on Wheels, as well as pillowcases for Conkerr Cancer.

At Quilter’s Corner in New Milford, owner Becky Frazer said that thanks to people like Petrella, Wertzberger, and Ernst, her shop was able to pull in about 8,000 pillowcases for children at Sandy Hook- well above her original goal of 600.

Frazer said when she first publicized her idea on the shop’s Facebook page, she did not expect the response she received.

“The day I posted it on my Facebook, I was thinking ‘please don’t let me end up making 500 pillow cases,’” Frazer joked.

She said that the shop has received cases from all over the country, as well Spain and the United Kingdom. The additional pillowcases have been given to Cub Scout groups and dance classes that lost children in the Newtown shooting, as well as local firefighter groups, parents and families who lost children, as well as St. Rose Church in Newtown, which she said had hosted many of the children’s funerals.

As of Jan. 10, Frazer said all but 1,000 of the pillowcases had been given to those in need of comfort in the community. However, she said she still has been receiving donations and notes from people all over looking to help out.

“The whole world has sent us pillowcases, it’s been really touching,” Frazer said. “And I think it was really healing for the people that made them.”

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 Julie Petrella/ Elizabeth Wertzberg, of Upper Township, shows off the pillowcase she made at Home Made for children at Sandy Hook Elementary. 
Julie Petrella / Elizabeth Wertzberg, of Upper Township, shows off the pillowcase she made at Home Made for children at Sandy Hook Elementary.

More than 8,000 pillowcases were donated to Quilter’s Corner in New Milford to give to students at Sandy Hook Elementary. 
Photo courtesy of Facebook: More than 8,000 pillowcases were donated to Quilter’s Corner in New Milford to give to students at Sandy Hook Elementary.


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