Mercy Iowa City's old hospital linens become new garments, blankets for people in need

Volunteers create items that benefit people around the world

Fonda Weber of Coralville smooths out the edges of a bedsheet that will become the bottom layer of a quilt at Zion Luthe
Fonda Weber of Coralville smooths out the edges of a bedsheet that will become the bottom layer of a quilt at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City Wednesday, July 31, 2019. The donated fabric from Mercy Iowa City hospital is made into quilts, linens and bandages that are then shipped to a hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Terri Lee Doehrmann spends hours sorting through Mercy Iowa City’s linens as a part of her role in the hospital’s linen services department, looking for any wear or tear that would make them unusable.

But instead of pitching unusable linens in the garbage, Doehrmann donates them to a group of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids quilters who use the fabric to sew creations that benefit others around the world.

“If you would ever get the chance to see all the stuff we donated and see what they do with all of that stuff, it’s amazing,” Doehrmann said. “I’m glad it’s not going to a landfill and someone is getting the benefit of them.”

Doehrmann coordinates the donations for Mercy Iowa City and passes along torn, worn or otherwise unusable hospital linens to Iowa City resident Jean Schultz, who distributes the donations to area volunteer groups. Doehrmann’s donations include scrubs, patient gowns, surgical gowns and bed sheets, among others.

At one Iowa City church — Zion Lutheran Church on North Johnson Street — a group of volunteers spends every Wednesday turning the old hospital fabrics into quilts that are then donated across the world.

The group, organized in part by Schultz, creates nearly 400 quilts a year for Lutheran World Relief, an international organization focused on sustainable development and disaster relief and recovery, according to its website. Volunteers say the quilts, which are sent overseas in the fall and spring, often end up in Central and South America.

According to Lutheran World Relief, the quilts provide warmth for those living in poverty.

Quilts are also donated to homeless shelters in Iowa City and Burlington, the Shelter House’s Cross Park Place apartments and area families in need.


In addition to the donated hospital linens, Schultz said the group receives grant money from Thrivent Financial to pay for batting and other needed fabric.

Schultz is also involved at an effort with Stonebridge Church in Cedar Rapids, where volunteers use the linens to create various hospitals for the Tandala Hospital located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Throughout the year, volunteers use Mercy’s donated linens to create bandages, surgical linens and clothes for young children, among other items needed by the African hospital. They also create Days for Girls kits, an international effort that distributes menstrual items for girls who would otherwise miss school during their periods.

Doehrmann said she also donates Mercy Iowa City’s old linens to a group at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Iowa City.

Schultz said she doesn’t remember how she was connected with Doehrmann, but the effort to create quilts and items for the Tandala Hospital from donated linens has been ongoing for more than 20 years, she said.

“We use everything,” Schultz said. “If you took all of these things away, imagine what the cost would be. We’re so grateful.”

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