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HomeContented Heart Guild

The Contented Heart Guild


It’s hard to know where to start to describe this unbelievable group of “little old ladies” from Monticello. They must have a whole flock of guardian angels watching over them, given the series of unusual events that ended in their favor.  It all started with a simple quilt guild in 1989 and grew over the years into so much more.

In February 1989, two ladies, Ruby McFarland and Alicia Stokes, through the local extension agent, held a few community meetings which resulted in a group of 19 women forming a new quilting guild. In her absence, Alicia was elected as President and reluctantly accepted, saying she didn’t feel she knew anything about heading up a guild. The group set their meeting date on the 3rd Monday of each month, from 12 noon to about 3 in the afternoon, a schedule they follow to this day.    At first, they were meeting at various locations in Monticello, but eventually began meeting regularly at the library.   In the first five years, the guild grew to about 26-27 members, and they spent their time making quilts and holding raffles to fund various charitable pursuits.  Alicia, still serving as President, feeling that the group needed a new venture to keep from getting “stale,” led the guild in launching the "Quilt show of the Little Mountains” in 1994.

Quilt Show of the Little Mountains
In preparation to start a quilt show, Alicia sought advice from Meredith Schroeder. (yes, the Meredith Schroeder, the one that started the American Quilt Society and the Paducah Quilt Show.)  Alicia was fortunate to have a dress in the Paducah fashion show that year and luckily made contact with Meredith.  Schroeder gave her several suggestions, and those successful ideas are still being followed today.  The first show had approximately 100 quilts and was one of the only traditional quilt shows in the state.  Only hand work was shown.  In order to be sure of attracting the best quilters in the region, good prize money was offered.  To achieve success, the group of “little old ladies” of the Contented Heart Guild “invaded” the local merchants for donations.  Evidently, it was hard to say “no” to this small marching army of quilters because they raised over $2800 and numerous gifts as door prizes.                        
 An Old Fashioned Bed Turning is a feature at each
year's Quilt Show of the Little Mountains.


The guild was finding it harder and harder to arrange their meetings at the local library and started to look for other locations to meet.  One evening, Alicia’s husband suggested that the guild should get their own building and he knew of the perfect one.  It was a historic building on Main Street in town that had served as a general store and was for sale for $30,000.  Where in the world would a small group of quilters in southern Kentucky come up with enough funds to finance something like that?  Remember, it was hard to say “no” to this group, and it seems there was no end to Alicia’s resourcefulness in figuring out a way to make it work.

In order to understand the next chapter in the guild's story, a bit of political history needs to be given.  The most recent national election cycle had just resulted in a Clinton Presidency. While in the midst of campaigning, Hillary Clinton had promised to work for women’s groups if her husband was elected.

Remembering Mrs. Clinton's words, and determined to find a way for her guild to own their own building, Alicia phoned the White House, where she was put in contact with Mrs. Clinton's personal aide Susan.    After many phone calls between the White House and Monticello, Kentucky, Alicia was advised that she would hear from the Appalachian Regional Commission. (ARC) In addition, she was told to reach out to them if she needed any further assistance.

It was determined that the project might qualify and a grant was submitted to the ARC.  The guild anxiously awaited their approval.  In the meantime, the owner of the building accepted $100/month from the ladies to hold the building for them while the wheels of government were turning.  The guild realized at this point if they did get the grant they would probably need to seek additional help because the building was in need of some major renovation work.
Alicia made contact with a woman in Frankfort that she had met once, and remembered she worked in a department of the state government that dealt with the arts.  This acquaintance felt the Kentucky Historical Society might be able to help and made arrangements for them to come and look at the building for a possible grant to help with the renovation.  The guild was told that the normal grant money that was issued was $3,000 – 5,000, and that must be matched by the requesting group.
The guild heard that the ARC approved of the $30,000 grant for the purchase of the building while the Kentucky Historical Society was reviewing the application for renovation funds.  However, there was yet another layer of government wheel turning before the ARC received approval for the release of the funds. It seemed whenever the guild and Alicia ran into an obstacle, they found the perfect solution waiting right “next door”.  The owner of the building next to the building that they were trying to purchase had a grandson who worked for Senator McConnell.  It was McConnell’s office that needed to sign off on the release of the funds of the ARC grant.  Of course, another call was made and the efforts put into motion for the release of funds.
Next, the Historical Society informed the guild that, much to their amazement, the committee had approved a $10,000 grant as long as matching funds were raised.  Alicia assured the Society that the guild could meet the challenge.  Once again the band of “little old ladies” hit the street and found their community to be very supportive, with $5,000 raised in short order.  However, the funds from the ARC had still not been received, and the owner of the building was losing patience. If the guild was unable to complete the purchase of the building, the owner informed them that he would put it up for auction the following week.
Another call to Washington was needed, this time to Senator McConnell’s office.  The plea was made to have the ARC funds released within the next few days in order that all the work that had been done would not be lost. If their office was not able to respond by the next morning, Alicia told them she would feel it necessary to contact the White House again to explain the difficulty in getting the promised funds released.  She added, she was so hoping to have Senator McConnell come to a major rally in Monticello to show the state how his office had helped a group of women achieve their goals.  (Or, would she invite Mrs. Clinton to that rally instead?)
 Alicia with Senator McConnell

The next morning, Alicia received a call from McConnell’s office, informing her the funds would be in their bank account by 2 P.M. that day!  While the normal period of time to process a grant is two years, this grant was received in record time of 6 months. The sale of the building was completed, the matching funds for the Historical Society were met, and a contractor was hired to do the necessary renovations.  At the same time, the group was working on their third annual Quilt Show of the Little Mountains.

Guild Members welcoming visitors to the annual show. 

The Contented Heart Quilt Guild now had a place to hold their meetings.  The new building    named “The Quilt Shoppe”, is located at 24 North Main St. in Monticello. The next couple of years, the group continued with the annual quilt show while they were determining the several possible uses of the building.  At the same time, Alicia retired as President, feeling it was time to pass the baton.  After a couple of years, the group stopped holding the annual show because they were busy getting the new business organized.  .

The Quilt Shoppe was set up in a “mall” fashion, with sections of the original general store shelving rented to craftsmen to have a venue to sell their products.  They only rent space to hand-made items, collectibles, antiques, or sewing notions.  They have two different sized units, one renting for $10/month and the other for $15/month.  In the center of the shop is a large area set up just for the guild meetings. The rental income is used to pay for utilities and other minor expenses.  The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 – 4 and is manned totally by volunteers from the guild.  Each month at the guild meetings, the calendar is passed for the members to choose the days that they can help at the shop.

Owning an old building can have its problems.  At one time, a rear corner of the building was sinking and causing drainage problems for the Theatre business next door.  The owner of the Theatre stepped up and paid for the repairs to help not only alleviate his problems, but also to help the Contented Heart Quilt Guild. Remember, for this group there always seemed to be a solution close at hand.  Next, it became evident that the roof would need to be replaced and a wheel chair ramp would be necessary.  In addition, the ladies of the guild really wanted to renovate the second floor of the building which needed major work.

The ARC was contacted and their estimate for all this work was over $300K.  Not to be deterred, the Monticello City Council was contacted and matching grants were obtained for a new roof and wheel chair ramp. Later, when the Historical Museum was renovating, Ronald and Polly Sartin saw an answer to renovating the second floor.  They were instrumental in getting permission to use the Wayne County prison inmates. Men who knew dry wall work, framing work, cabinetry work, masonry, etc., were provided.  Since the ladies fed the inmates (really well) on the days that they were working, the men willingly volunteered to do whatever work was required.  Materials were purchased by the guild, labor was free, and the project cost $10K rather than a possible $300K.  At the completion of the renovation, each of the men who had worked on the project were given a quilt that had been made by the guild.  One man cried; and others, now out of prison, return to visit the ladies of the guild.  This second floor has been furnished wonderfully by the “little old ladies” using cast-offs, donated items, and second-hand treasures.  

 Two original commercial doors restored on the second floor of The Quilt Shoppe.
A welcome quilt, each block made by one of the guild members, hangs on the second floor of the building.
The Quilt Show of the Little Mountains was started up again in 2002 with The Quilt Shoppe running smoothly and the ladies having time to devote to the project.  The show has been held in a few different locations in Monticello, including the shop, and is now held in the Aspire Center, 225 Highway 1275. They use the original curtain drapes from the very first quilt show.  They were initially hung on wooden rods which were very heavy.  The money for these sheets (made into curtains) came from a Federation of Women's Group from Louisville, Ky. and Walmart gave them a discount price.    In 2008, Anneda Guffey, President of the Quilt Guild at that time, visited the Paducah Quilt Show and took note of their metal rods. She and her husband came home to design and have rods constructed at the local Machine Shop to hang the quilts they continue to use today.   The show now accepts entries with machine work, but still honors hand work with several prize categories. The Contented Heart Quilt Guild makes several quilts every year for purchase in order to support their treasury.  They have challenge blocks yearly that are turned into an opportunity quilt that always gleans a good sum.  In addition, like most guilds, they are involved in many charitable projects.       

The story is not complete without telling about the most current building problem. The old hardwood floor of the shop was getting weak in spots.  This was an obvious concern for safety, so the guild sought a contractor and got an estimate for repairs.  After the original inspection, it was estimated the repairs would take about three days and the shop prepared to close for that period of time.  The repairs began and set off a bizarre series of events.  In a crawl space under the building, a section of dirt fell in as repairs started.  This created a hole in the ground that could have been a sink hole or a cave.  Worse yet, with further inspection down into the hole, there appeared to be skeletal bones, with a partial skull exposed that was the size of a small child's skull.  Work had to be stopped and the coroner called before anything else could be done.  Tests showed that the skeleton was a that of cat.  Work was resumed and the floor was repaired while saving most of the original wood plank floor.  The repairs took 3 weeks rather than the originally estimated 3 days.  This was all going on while the guild was preparing for the annual quilt show of 2016.

Representatives of KHQS were welcomed by this group at the recent quilt show.  They are the warmest group of ladies that you can imagine.  Their show is a must visit, with many quilts of outstanding quality.  Their shop is delightful!  KHQS expresses their thanks to the entire group for their friendship.  These ladies do not just have angels watching over them, but they are a group of angels.
  Linda Marean working the fund raising table at the recent show. 



The wonderful quilt behind the scene on the website was made by Karen Riggins.  Karen is a founding member of KHQS and has served the organization in several capacities including President and QAK Coordinator.