Combating The Cold – Clinton County Woman “Throws” Her Heart, Hands into Helping People Stay Warm

Pat Brandmeyer (above right) and niece Mary Miller fold material that has been cut and pinned. From there, it’s off to the sewing machine, where it will be used to make a throw that will be donated to St. Vincent de Paul to help needy metro-east residents stay warm in the winter months. Brandmeyer and other family members have made about 500 throws in the last three years (David Wilhelm photos).

This warm blanket was made

With tender loving care

Hoping to keep you warm and safe

From the winter cold somewhere

Made from surplus fabrics,

Donated, unused and stored

The time it took was truly

An act of service for the Lord

We must give “Thanks” every day

For many blessings that He sends

For all good will and inspirations

Received from all our friends

In gratitude to God above

Regardless what the others say

God knows best what is our fate

So take time out to kneel and pray

No need to send a thank you card

For no praise is needed

It comes knowing you are warm

Because the cause was heeded

That is a poem written by Pat Brandmeyer, 84, who lives between Albers and Damiansville. “It accompanies every blanket, or “throw,” that she makes and donates to St. Vincent de Paul for distribution to cold and homeless people.

In the last three years, Brandmeyer and her small but mighty team have pinned, cut and sewn about 500 throws, all in the name of compassion.

The women gather each Wednesday in Brandmeyer’s home, where they enjoy one another’s company and gain peace and satisfaction from knowing their deeds are filling a need.

Brandmeyer doesn’t know any of the people who wrap themselves in the warmth and comfort she provides. They don’t know her, either.

That hardly matters. It’s enough for Brandmeyer, a mother of eight with 22 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren, to know that she has answered God’s calling.

“God tells us we all have a mission,” Brandmeyer said. “I think this is God’s will for me.”

All material for the throws is donated. Mary Miller, one of Brandmeyer’s nieces, is part of a quilting group that convenes every Monday in Sandoval.

Mostly through word of mouth, residents have learned about the group. Typically, Miller and another member of the group are asked to visit the home of a recently deceased family member to see whether there is any unused fleece, flannel, double-knit or wool that can be used to make the throws.

“Rather than throwing it away, they ask us if we can use it,” said Miller, 78, of Centralia. “We go to the house and pick up what material they’ve got. Then we sort it out and give it to Pat. Sometimes it might be 5 or 6 yards. It would be terrible to let it set there or be thrown away.”

Brandmeyer said making a throw is “a very simple thing.” She selects a material, pins it, cuts it to size and then heads for her sewing room or passes it on to another sewer. In two hours, one throw can be completed.

“Anybody could do this on their own with excess material,” said Brandmeyer, a member of St. Damian in Damiansville. “You take two pieces of material, 40 by 50 (inches), sew them together, turn them inside out, top-stitch them and they’re done. I work with what I have. The majority of (the throws) are for adults. I try not to throw anything away.”

Brandmeyer taught herself how to sew many years ago. With five daughters and three sons, she got plenty of practice.

“I feel like it’s a talent God has sent me, to know how to sew,” she said. “I am blessed because I love to sew. It’s something I can do in my home and I know I’m helping somebody. I do it knowing there are plenty of people out there that need it and it’s God’s will for me to do.”

Brandmeyer said there are 10 women, mostly family members, involved with making the throws, including other sewers who bring their machines into her home and set up shop in the family room. One day, Brandmeyer said the team made 40 throws. Pillows are occasionally made, too, with stuffing provided by a woman from Highland.

“I can handle up to six sewers and two people helping me cut, pin and keep the sewers supplied,” Brandmeyer said. “I don’t care to get any bigger than that. I like the way we’ve got it. We have a lot of fun.”

Brandmeyer downplays compliments and praise.

“I don’t want thanks for what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m doing God’s will. I guess I take for granted that (people) appreciate it as much as they do. I prefer to be a behind-the-scenes person, serving others.

“I’m a person who would rather do something for someone else. Sometimes the (throws) aren’t the most glamorous things, but (people) don’t care. They’re warm. That’s what I tell myself: ‘This maybe isn’t pretty, but if it’s warm, that’s all that counts.’”