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Stitched Into Cotton: Stanton’s Rebecca Riley

by Aubry Heinrich

When Rebecca Riley begins making a quilt, it must meet some specific qualifications to be classified as a quilt. It must have a top and back covering with a layer of cotton batting in between. The three-layer requirement is an essential quilt qualification. However, Riley adds another stipulation to the list. It must be large enough to wrap yourself up in it.

Riley has been working for Stanton Co-op Gin as the main bookkeeper for 41 years. However, she has been making quilts and sewing her entire life. She has dedicated a lifetime of service to the gin and the cotton farmers it serves. It is safe to say that the majority of her life has been stitched into the cotton industry. Riley will retire at the close of the 2021 ginning season after many years of hard work and dedication to Stanton Co-op. 

“These farmers are like family. The employees that have been here a long time, they’re like family,” Riley said. “I want to do the best I can for them, and I’m going to have a hard time leaving.” 

Riley was born and raised in Portales, New Mexico, on a dairy. She is the second oldest of five children. While she is no stranger to hard work, Riley credits her ability to stay working and dedicated to the gin to her family at home. She has been married to her husband, Tommy, for 47 years. Together they have two daughters, two thoughtful sons-in-law and six lovely grandchildren. 

“If I didn’t have a good support system, I probably couldn’t have been working seven days a week during ginning season,” she said. 

Riley has proven herself to be an integral part of the ginning process to Stanton Co-op. For 41 years, she has served the co-op’s farmers by helping them gin and market each year’s crop as efficiently as possible. 

“Each year when the auditors finish up their audit, I am always proud of how few entries they have to make for both the gin financials and for the store financials,” she said. “I have been able to stay on top of the accounts and make the adjustments that were needed throughout the year.” 

She not only enjoys working for farmers but is also constantly advocating for the cotton industry. From using cotton batting and fabric in her quilting to making sure that even the gifts she gives are all made from cotton, Riley says her main goal is to help and advocate for cotton farmers in any way she can. 

“Dedication is a word that comes to mind when I think of Rebecca. She always puts everything she has into that gin and makes sure she does what is best for her producers each season,” said Corey Smyth, PCCA Director of Cotton Services and Gin Accounting. “You want to leave a place better than you found it, and she can confidently say that she will do just that.” 

After working for Stanton Co-op for four decades, Riley has practically been sewn into their ginning process and has become a constant aid to farmers during their busiest season of the year. As she goes into her last ginning season, she is thankful for the farmers who have surrounded her. 

“I’m proud of the work they do. They are doing their best to get their cotton ready for our clothes and my quilts,” she said. 

While she is stepping back from the gin, she is still dedicated to serving the community of Stanton in another way. Her love for making quilts is something she has had since she was young. She started sewing in junior high, and her passion for handcrafting fabric grew from there. She is currently part of several small local quilting groups focused on giving to the less fortunate and our nation’s veterans. 

Riley has found a unique way to give back to her community and still include the cotton industry through quilting for veterans. Each veteran she makes a quilt for means a great deal to Riley. She visits them multiple times and researches their military service. 

Every quilt she makes is customized to their service and military experiences. She spends time getting to know each of them, ensuring she does her best to provide them with a quilt that honors their service to the United States. 

“I’m hoping to try to make more quilts of valor. Red, white and blue quilts made for our veterans,” she explained. “I want to thank them for their service and what they have done for our country.” 

The Stanton Co-op Gin and community have been wrapped up in Riley’s love for the last 41 years. Even though she is retiring, she will continue to give back and be a cheerleader for the industry and producers in her area.