Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Community Quilting and the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative


In September of 2005, a devastating hurricane (Katrina) attacked the entire Gulf Coast. As the news media reported its effects, communities everywhere wondered what they might do to help.
Here in Salem, Oregon a call went out for community quilters...women who would be willing to sew and to quilt for just two days, and then send those quilts to survivors of the hurricane. 200 women made 200 quilts in just 2 days. Thirty of us decided that we wanted to keep on quilting and keep on donating...to any cause that needed quilts, for however long we could do it. About a dozen of that original group have been quilting, either at home, or in a downtown Salem church, ever since.

Just like hundreds of thousands of other quilters everywhere, I have continued to sew, to quilt, and to give away almost all that I make. It has been busy, challenging, productive and meaning-filled. When I pack up on Monday mornings, I have an assortment such as you see here. Some days, I add two more bags of supplies or hopefully, one with a finished quilt.

Since that day in 2005, quilts have been sent to Habitat for Humanity, inter-faith ministries, child abuse victims, domestic violence victims, AIDs babies, premature babies, cancer patients undergoing chemo-therapy, wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.

As seen above, these are the newest batch of purple ribbons that I have ready to mail to Ami Simms, the director of AAQI. They will be worn by those viewing the "Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece" nationwide traveling quilt show.

I made and passed around flyers telling others about the AAQI and asked each quilter to please write the name of someone she cared about who had Alzheimer's or a related dementia. I found that some could not think of names to write...then, suddenly they thought of several. Some didn't actually consider 'senility' as falling under the umbrella of Alzheimer's and related dementias...even though the person was under medical care and might not even recognize them any more.

I realized that denial is a powerful protective device. I also, realized how truly exhausting it is to care so much and try so hard for so many causes and individuals and groups can be overwhelmed with requests for help or even, quilts.

Last Monday, I faced the emotions of all of the names on even more purple ribbons. I am filled with so many heart felt feelings for the stories that I am reading and the desperate need for quilters and their quilts to comfort those battling cancer or to raise monies for groups to raise money for research on other diseases such as Alzheimer's.

My heart is full and I wish I could reach out and mail quilts all over America. I am so blessed to know so many of you who do this work and continue to reach out with your quilts...not just quilting as a hobby, or to enter quilt shows, but truly doing the work of your hearts and soul's and in the process sharing your love with others who so desperately want and need it.

All each of us can do, is continue to try to help, to listen, to respond to an email, to make our quilts and send them out with love. I am so grateful and feel so blessed to received beautiful e-mails from others who face life's trials and tribulations and are so grateful to know that others truly care and wish to help them...even if the helping is the donation of a handmade quilt.

So, today, I send out my newest batch of purple ribbons on behalf of Alzheimer's patients and I quilt for our wounded warriors, for children in need and for cancer patients everywhere.

shown:
quilting 'stash' in all its forms, ready to go....

links:
Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative
The Purple Patch Project
From The Heart of a Quilter
Comfort Quilts

5 comments:

  1. An aunt I share my birthday with has Alzheimers. She was once an executive with Montgomery Ward and now she cannot even feed herself. It is a devastating disease. It is a wonderful thing you do.

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  2. I do a lot of charity quilting, and since I head up a committee that does this and keep our stash and supplies, it often feels like lots of busy work far removed from the end goal. But whenever I meet someone who has been touched by one of the quilts, or read one of their thank-yous, I am reminded of why I do it. I found your post very moving and another needed reminder to keep at it.

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  3. Thank you, Michele, for putting into words why I do so much 'charity quilting and knitting'.

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  4. Beautifully written... you truly have a gift for sharing through words the things that so many of us feel and do.

    Earlier this week I pulled some fabrics to make a few pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer (http://www.conkerrcancer.org/) -- another marvelous way to touch those in need. And I've just started another PQ for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.

    Anyway, take care - and thank you so much for sharing your heart and your beautiful writings.

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  5. You are a blessing, and a model, to each and every one of us. Thank you.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.