My Brother's Keeper

My Brother's Keeper

Sleeping Bag Project for the Homeless

My Brother's Keeper-img

Members of My Brother’s Keeper Ugly Quilt Group took a moment from sewing to pose for a photo in the Covenant Room where their stock is kept and where they’re able to spread out the materials. From left, are Janet Cado, Mable Hawkins, Mary Glor, Nancy Oles, Virginia Winningham, Marcia Hicklin, Sharol McMullin and Susan Small. Not pictured: Rose Seitz. (Photo by Liz Johnson)

My Brother's Keeper

Article by Liz Johnson

Beth Simnitt
Founder, LUMC Quilters

My Brother's Keeper is a ministry that prepares bedrolls for the homeless in Kansas City. The bedrolls are made using donated fabric, and include a tie (for potential job interviews), pillow case, toiletries, Upper Room devotional, socks, a hoodie, scarf, and a handwritten card.

A Ministry Was Born

An idea bloomed in the 1980s after LUMC member Beth Simnitt (right) read an article in Interpreter Magazine about a couple who were making sleeping bags for the homeless in New York City. The couple were using donations of fabrics, old blankets, etc., to make the sleeping bags.

When Lexington UMC had a rummage sale with blankets and ribbons left over, Beth couldn’t see it all going to a landfill. With the idea of making sleeping bags for the homeless on her mind, she pitched the idea to her Sunday School class in hopes of putting together a group of quilters.

Having been a seamstress for many years, Beth had a large quantity of unused fabric to add to the leftover rummage sale blankets and ribbons. She also offered to chair the mission and "My Brothers Keeper" was born.

According to Janet Cado, the quilting group began gathering around the late 1980s in the old Lexington UMC church. With no specific room assignment, the ladies would set up the tables and work areas in the fellowship hall of the church. Once the new location opened, the Covenant Room was dedicated for the quilter’s to use. Now, all these years later, the ladies still meet every Monday at 1 p.m. here at the church. If you have a heart for hands-on ways to minister to that forgotten group, come join us.

What about the design?

It was determined that the sleeping bags had to be made “ugly” because the homeless would otherwise sell them. The quilters have the design down pat and can make a number of sleeping bags fairly quickly. Most of the quilters ladies have been lifelong sewers. Quilter Mary Glor said she makes quilts, sews, crochets, knits and does embroidery.

Mable Hawkins said she has always sewed for her girls. “It’s my time away from home,” she added with a grin.

Quilter Virginia Winningham said, “you have to like to sew to do this.”

Everything donated to the quilters is put to use, including coats and blankets.

A rolled up ugly sleeping bag to the homeless isn’t the only item included in the donation. The quilters also add: three pairs of socks, a current Upper Room devotional, a personal note with scripture on it, toiletry items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc., a hoodie, pillow case, a scarf, and are tied with a tie.

And these ladies are resourceful. Janet Cado said that they’ll make use of whatever is donated. Old electric blankets can even be donated. “We strip the wiring out,” she said referring to how they make use of the electric blanket. Janet also said that whatever scraps are left over from the sleeping bags, they’ll put to good use for something else. “I make dog beds from the leftover pieces,” she added.

More Than 2,000 Sleeping Bags Made

In 2022, Janet said they made 117 sleeping bags. They generally average 100 to 125 a year, however, in 2016 they made 191 and in 2018 they made 144.

According to a Lexington News article from 2006, the quilters had completed 500 of the handsewn sleeping bags by October 30th of that year.

A 2011 article in the same newspaper reported that by September 9th of that year, the quilters had made 1,000 sleeping bags for the homeless.

With 15 yards of material going into the making of each sleeping bag, that’s 15 yards not going to the landfill. To put it into a better perspective, in making 117 sleeping bags in 2022, the quilters kept 1,755 yards of material out of the landfills.

Where Do the Sleeping Bags Go?

Over the years, the quilters have donated to a number of shelters and organizations.

The sleeping bags were originally donated to Restart, a homeless mission for men and women in Kansas City. After Restart changed owners, the new ownership decided to accept donations from other missions.

Nevertheless, the quilters found plenty of other places to donate the sleeping bags. “Whomever needs them,” said Janet.

Some of the places who have received the sleeping bags include: HCC here in Lexington, City Union Mission, shelters in Independence and a homeless camp in Blue Springs, just to name a few. In 2019, the LUMC Youth Group took 65 on a mission trip to Branson to donate to the charity Jesus Was Homeless.

How to Donate

Our quilters always need more donations to keep making the sleeping bags, as well as for the additional items packed with them.

Donations can be left at the church office, or swing by the church between 1 and 3 p.m. on a Monday and donate directly to these hardworking ladies.

Items in need: blankets, bedspreads, drapes, mattress pads, old electric blankets, socks, ribbons, toiletries (ideally hotel-sized toiletries) such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hoodies, T-shirts, pillowcases and old greeting cards with a blank back that can be used for a custom message and scripture for each sleeping bag recipient.

Each sleeping bag has items rolled up into it: a pillowcase, toiletries, Upper Room devotional, socks, a hoodie, scarf, a handwritten card and is tied with a tie and/or ribbon. Donations of fabric and roll-up items are needed and welcome. They can be turned into the church office, Monday thru Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A Roll-Up Prayer

“Lord take the work of our hands and bless it and in Thy Name, let the person that receives this gift know that he is loved.” - AMEN

My Brother's Keeper Ugly Quilt Group


35 I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.

Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)