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For 35 years, the more than 200 members of the Waterloo County Quilters’ Guild have been focused on community outreach. In addition to learning new skills, enjoying camaraderie, and taking part in events, the group has worked hard to create and donate quilts, table runners, wall hangings and more to those in need.

As with many other organizations, the coronavirus pandemic put their donations on hold for some time and forced the guild into cyberspace for their meetings and events. Now that things have started to slow down with the pandemic, the quilters have started up their donations again, making a few stops throughout the region since the start of September.

Making stops at, among others, Innisfree House, Lisaard House, and Gies Family Centre Hospice, 70 quilts have been donated through the PAL program – palliative quilts given to individuals in hospice and their families to provide comfort – this year. Through the other programs, hundreds more quilts have been given out to various causes.

For Inge Ford, president of the quilters’ guild, doing this kind of work is important because the desire to help is within all those who take part in the art of quilting.

“Quilters have a desire and wish to support and help others using the skills and the talents that they have. So, community outreach for our group is very important. And I think that’s been manifested in a way that they have been able to support and make donations to various organizations in our region and beyond,” said Ford. “One of one of our mandates, so to speak, is to reach out and support community organizations [and] agencies… one of the reasons that many of our guild members are part of the guild is yes, we learn and we socialize with each other. We learn new skills, but we also have a desire to reach out and support the community.”

When COVID-19 hit in March, members of the quilters’ guild, like many other members in the community, took it upon themselves to help with the mask-making efforts in lieu of the usual items. They worked hard and donated 15,000 masks to various organizations throughout the region. They also took it upon themselves to make 4,000 additional that were distributed to Indigenous communities in the northern part of the province in an effort coordinated by the Mennonite Central Committee.

Breslau resident Judy Siegner is one member of the guild that has spent more than two decades enjoying the craft. It was only about 10 years ago when her husband passed that she started to really take part in the community outreach aspects, but she loves the work she does and says it’s very fulfilling.

“It feels wonderful to be able to contribute. The hospices serve the whole area, the cities as well. My husband was at Lisaard House, and I had a very good friend at Hospice Wellington, so I just feel a connection, feel the need to give back. I don’t think it would matter where I live, it’s the giving back,” said Siegner who is chair of the PAL committee. 

Other programs run by the guild include smile quilts – donated to the paediatric outpatient clinic at Grand River Hospital to be given to kids who  are going through treatments for cancer and other illnesses, memory quilts – given through the hospital’s bereavement program to parents who have lost a baby , and the touch quilt program – given to those with late-stage Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

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