BONIFAY - Bonifay Middle School recently held its last quilt show as Home Economics instructor Donna Rhodes enters retirement after more than 35 years of teaching.

Unless someone else volunteers to take it on, the last semester of the 2016-2017 academic year marked the last of the Quilts for Kids Program at BMS, which featured an annual quilt show to showcase various quilting projects students had been working on throughout the year.

This semester, the “Kases for Kids” program was continued, where the students made 75 pillow cases for hospitalized children.

More than 100 parents, grandparents, and siblings of the quilters were present at the show, which featured quilts made for children who are in the hospital going through life threatening illnesses. Students voluntarily help sew and put the quilts together with the hospital allowing "direct delivery" of the quilts.

"Direct delivery means the quilts are put into the hands of the child in need," Rhodes said. "It is rewarding to see the smiles on their faces as they receive their quilts.”

“The students really enjoyed this learning experience, and it broadened their sewing skills as they got to use a serger machine while making these pillow cases," Rhodes said.

For her last semester leading the students, Rhodes decided to use scrap batting to make pet carrier quilts and mats to give to Bonifay-based animal rescue, The Lucky Puppy.

Quilts were on display at the last show were all made by students with Rhodes’ help. In all, about 1,050 quilts have been made over the past nine years, a number that seems staggering, even to Rhodes.

"When I started the program, I never imagined we would make this many," she said.

The quilters were presented with a certificate for their service and a picture of themselves with their quilt during the show and enjoyed a slide show showcasing each of them with the items they completed.

Gold Needle Awards were presented to students selected for their "neat and correct" handwork with a needle and thread. Receiving Gold Needle Awards were: Sixth grade - Abby Bomann; Seventh grade - Darci Farring and Blayr Bush; and Eighth grade - Laila Destin.

The “Gold Thimble” award went to eighth grader Sarah White, who has made 20 quilts for the program over the last three years. White has also worked on pillow cases and dog quilts and has helped other students.

In honor of Rhodes' last year, students were challenged to make “extra” squares out of the leftover scraps from previous quilts. The students rose to the challenge, making almost 300 extra squares which will be turned into quilts at a later date.

As she prepared to leave her career in the Holmes County School District and begin a new stitch in her own story, Rhodes left one last message to her students’ parents.

“God has given me the gift of creativity and a heart to help others; I thank Him for the passion He has put in my heart and in my life. Thank you, parents, for allowing me to work with you children, creating these quilts for less fortunate children," she said. "My desire is for them to leave BMS with everyday sewing skills and the attitude and passion of helping others. I saw this quote the other day by Audrey Hepburn and believe what it says: 'As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands - one for helping yours self, the other for helping others.' I am going to dearly miss working with children, but the 36 years I have had will forever be in my heart.”