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Working overtime for local relief efforts

Loraine Berge turns over 283 quilts she made to Pastor Hans Borch of Elmira’s St. James Lutheran Church, which is taking part in a drive to help Syrian refugees. [Will Sloan / The Observer]

With so much occupying our attention, sometimes charity can get put on the backburner. But when a career change left her with more spare time, Loraine Berge took to the sewing machine and set about creating 283 quilts recently donated to the St. James Lutheran Church’s Syrian relief effort.

“We were so busy,” Berge reflected. “When our kids were small, we didn’t have time, we didn’t have money to do anything or make any donations. Now, I’ve got the time, I’ve got the skill, and I’ve got some sources where I can get fabric, usually for free.”

She laughed, “It gives me something worthwhile to do, and I’m not sitting at home and getting depressed!”

Berge donated the quilts to Elmira’s St. James Lutheran Church, which, along with St. Paul’s, is taking part in the Canadian Lutheran World Relief’s national initiative for Syrian refugees.

“Certainly this is a wonderful gift that Lorraine has provided for the refugee camp,” said pastor Hans Borch. “I’m sure people over there will really appreciate the amount of work and dedication that she put into these quilts.”

As her work schedule slowed down two years ago, Berge first took on a project to make and donate 187 quilts to Haiti. The current donation, accomplished with the help of two hired Mennonite quilters and donations of materials from local businesses, was dropped off almost exactly a year after the project began on October 23, 2012.

Loraine Berge turns over 283 quilts she made to Pastor Hans Borch  of Elmira’s St. James Lutheran Church, which is taking part in a drive to help Syrian refugees.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Loraine Berge turns over 283 quilts she made to Pastor Hans Borch of Elmira’s St. James Lutheran Church, which is taking part in a drive to help Syrian refugees. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
“A lot of hard work,” said Berge. “I’ve gone to a couple of furniture places and used samples that they’ve had hanging on the wall. I went to garage sales, some people donated me some fabric, but for the quilted quilts, I bought new fabric for the backing, and paid a couple of ladies to quilt them with the thread.”

How does she find the time? “I just make the time,” she replied. “I enjoy doing it.”

For Borch, Berge’s donation complemented the church’s ongoing sweater drive, devoted to bringing warmth to the needy.

“There have been people coming in on a daily basis,” said Borch of local donors. “We have two boxes in our front hall that have to be emptied on a regular basis just to keep allowing room.

“Syria had gone through a horrendous spring where there was a lot of flooding, and they recognized the need, came back to Canada and said, ‘We need to have a national initiative to try and provide some warmth for these people.’”

Borch continued, “The one thing I hope that people will take away from this is that, we do have an awful lot. Statistics say that we are in the top eight per cent of the wealthy people in the world; that means there are 92 per cent that are far worse off than we are. I think we’re called to help out.”

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