The dozen or so women gathered around tables in the church hall at Mother of Divine Grace are as tight-knit as the pieces of fabric they knot together.
It’s the fourth Monday night in October, and Women at the Well are busy wrapping up December’s project, making 30 blankets for the Padre Pio Prayer Center.
The group consists of women from Mother of Divine Grace, Nativity, St. Adalbert and St. George parishes that now make up the unified St. John Paul II parish in Port Richmond.
Once a month from September to May, nearly 20 women meet to give back to the community and to build a sense of community among each other.
Rose Pellegrini and Dolores Lucano formed the group last year at MDG, its first project taking place in September 2018.
The group’s name is based in faith and flaws.
“We’re like the Samaritan women. We’re not perfect, we all have issues, but we’re trying to do good and spread Jesus’ love,” Pellegrini said, laughing.
Each year, a different chairperson chooses a specific cause or charity for the women to sponsor. Last year, St. Francis Inn in Kensington was the recipient. This year, chairperson Anelka Szaruga suggested Padre Pio Prayer Center at the former St. Joachim parish in Frankford.
Projects completed since its inception ranged from making blankets, to making casseroles in bulk, to putting together bags of toiletries, to collecting 200 coloring books and packs of crayons.
In April, the group completed a bottle drive — the group used bottles to collect donations — and raised $3,700 benefiting Legacy of Life Foundation, an organization that provides resources to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
This month, the group collected canned and dry goods for the food bank for Nativity Place BVM.
The women all concurred that organizations have been shocked by their generosity “because we’re an inner-city neighborhood.”
“It’s mind-blowing, really. It’s amazing, the generosity of the people of this neighborhood,” Szaruga said.
Although the group grew out of the desire of a couple of women to get together like the women who had come before them at the parish, no one woman holds a higher position than another.
“It’s not one person. We are the women,” Pellegrini said. “And, it’s not just us. We’re the messengers. It’s the donations from the parishioners. It’s a generous neighborhood.”
“Every month, we have a meeting and all the women come to the meeting and we all contribute ideas,” Szaruga added.
The Women at the Well advertise each monthly project in the church bulletins and leave boxes or baskets in the foyers at the entrances of the churches so people can leave donations.
At the end of each month, the women collect the donations and bring them to their monthly meetings and organize them prior to dropping them off.
The group is always looking for more volunteers. Eventually, they “want to crochet baby blankets for the newly baptized in the parish, so we’re looking for someone who can crochet,” but the group is open to anyone who wants to help.
Two women work on a blanket at a time, but the tables are close enough for conversation to flow casually.
The women reminisce about growing up in the neighborhood, going to the same schools, or their families, some being related by marriage.
“Our fathers were friends, our husbands were in a wedding together, and our children grew up together in their neighborhood,” one woman remarks.
“Our husbands are brothers,” another adds, laughing.
And, while the group consists of women from the parish and monthly meetings are held on parish grounds, their purpose goes beyond their religious roots.
The women call making the blankets and all their other projects “labors of love” and “missionary work” that is fun because it’s a group effort.
“It’s not just a matter of church. It’s a matter of community. Women need community,” Pellegrini said. “And, we are helping people less fortunate.”
Women at the Well meets once a month in Mother of Divine Grace rectory, 2918 E. Thompson St. Dates determined at previous monthly meeting. To get involved or be notified of an upcoming meeting, call MDG rectory at 215-739-0353 or check the weekly parish bulletins.