Quilts bring encouragement and warmth to cancer patients

STEINBACH MB�"“How many quilts can one little boy use?" wondered Doris Toews, stitching a gift for her grandson. Then she saw a newspaper photo. Victoria's Quilts Canada (VQC) had delivered its 10,000th quilt to a Winnipeg recipient, one among thousands of cancer patients who receive the beautiful gifts.

Toews knew where her next quilt would go. She enquired about VQC, and before long, she agreed to head up a chapter in her hometown of Steinbach.

Steinbach VQC delivered 47 quilts in its first year; 94 in 2010. The group will raffle off four quilts and one other gift to raise funds for a quilting machine that will help them double that number again this year.

The idea for Victoria's Quilts began in the U.S. in 1998 when Deborah Rogers sought comfort in the Scriptures following the death of her sister-in-law and best friend, Victoria Morrison, from cancer. She came across Joshua 1:9.

“Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord is with you, wherever you go."

Morrison, a long-time quilter, had always maintained “People aren't perfect�"why do quilts have to be?" Wanting to honour Morrison, Rogers decided to start making quilts for cancer patients as a ministry. The idea took off and now there are Victoria's Quilts chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

Ottawa resident Betty Giffin brought Victoria's Quilts to Canada in 1999. The first year the group made and distributed 16 quilts. Now there are 20 groups in Ottawa alone, with 26 branches across the country. Last year Victoria's Quilts Canada distributed more than 21,000 quilts.

Men and women, experienced or inexperienced, can join. Not everyone cuts or pieces the quilts. Volunteers package quilts for mailing while others make local deliveries. Toews stresses that delivery people need to be sensitive and tactful.

VQC maintains quality standards by purchasing batting and cotton flannel to complete the myriad of beautifully-pieced quilt tops. Sometimes donors provide tops already pieced; many more are made when the quilters gather, and members take home the pieces cut at a chapter meeting. Often Toews' quilters donate the materials.

Corporate sponsors donate or discount their products and services to support the organization, and by making financial grants and donations. Community groups and organizations contribute financial contributions."

Requests for quilts increase constantly, so the greatest need is for more dedicated quilters. Toews' Steinbach group has 20 members, with at least 15 gathering faithfully twice a month.

While the aim is to provide physical and spiritual comfort to those struggling with cancer, it is inevitable that volunteers benefit, too.

“A 97-year-old Ottawa resident, Alex, had lost her will to live," says Giffin. “We appealed for her help, bringing her quilt pieces. Almost every month she lugged two suitcases of finished quilt tops to the chapter meeting, making 700 quilt tops before she died."

In Ontario, where 40 hours of volunteer work is a requisite for high school graduation, seven high schools are now involved with VQC. Volunteers from youth detention and drug rehabilitation centres are also learning to care for others by making quilts.

According to the organization's website, “With the help of our volunteers, the community and blessings from above, we will continue to grow...until the day that cancer is no longer with us."

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail krempel@christianweek.org or call 1-800-263-6695.