FORT MADISON — For months, Barb Dinwiddie stitched together pieces of Holy Trinity Schools’ history through construction of a quilt. The quilt, containing old school T-shirts from Holy Trinity and its predecessors, Aquinas and Marquette, was created for Holy Trinity Schools’ 40th annual God’s Portion Day.
“We wanted something special for the 40th year,” said Dinwiddie, a 1971 graduate of Aquinas.
The first God’s Portion Day took place in 1975, orchestrated by Msgr. John Hyland, then executive secretary for the Fort Madison Catholic School System, who served on a volunteer committee which included Dinwiddie’s parents. Msgr. Hyland, now the Davenport Diocese’s vicar general, recalls the schools being about $42,000 in debt at the time, and learning about a nearby school’s annual fundraising auction during a chance meeting with its chairperson at a hardware store. “I asked if he thought such an event could take place in Fort Madison to raise money for the school and get us out of debt. He thought it was an excellent idea.”
The following God’s Portion Day raised close to $58,000, Msgr. Hyland said, more than enough to pay back the school system’s debt. The annual auction relies on donated items and has taken place every year since. Proceeds are now used to fund 20 percent of the schools’ operating fund.
“That mustard seed that was planted continues to grow year after year,” Msgr. Hyland said of the event.
Dinwiddie usually creates quilts for the auction each year, and this year’s God’s Portion Day committee thought a memory quilt would be a perfect way to commemorate the anniversary. Dinwiddie’s son, Aaron Dinwiddie, is a committee member, and asked her if she would be interested in taking on the project. “My son is 35 years old and he is still volunteering me for school projects,” she said with a chuckle.
She put notices on Facebook and local parish bulletins asking for old clothing items from Holy Trinity, Aquinas and Marquette. While she received some items she could not use — including a wool band uniform complete with a cap — the usable donations represented all eras of the schools’ history, including a T-shirt from the early 1970s and a fresh-off-the-press 40th Annual God’s Portion Day T-shirt. The latter serves as the quilt’s centerpiece. “It was an adventure to see what T-shirts we were getting,” she said.
After receiving enough shirts, she was left with the problem of finding patches that incorporated all of the schools’ colors, including blue, gold and gray. Her prayers were answered in the form of a school uniform jumper, which she cut into patches and sewed between T-shirt squares. With the amount of fabric contained in the pleated outfit, “I got a lot of mileage out of it.”
Ultimately, the quilt was auctioned off to the highest bidder for $2,250 at God’s Portion Day, which took place Oct. 25 and 26 at Holy Trinity Junior/Senior High School. In addition to the quilt, items including Volkswagen Beetles and other donated items were auctioned. Committee members gave away copies of a commemorative booklet complete with stories, reflections and names of those involved over the years. Bishop Martin Amos was on hand to celebrate Mass on Oct. 26, and Msgr. Hyland returned to concelebrate the Mass and support the event he helped to create 40 years ago.
In total, committee members said this year’s event brought in about $200,000.
Many of the current committee members are descendents of the original committee members, including Zach Pieper. He was effusive in his praise for the event and the work that people like Dinwiddie have put into the event since 1975. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Holy Trinity supporters for 40 years now. The thought and consideration that goes into the donations is greatly appreciated. Each donation and corresponding sale at the auction keeps Catholic education thriving in our community.”