A celebration was held this week at the Quilters Playhouse, located east of Steinbach. President Doris Toews says their group has become incorporated.
According to Toews, Heartland Quilters began working with a national charity in 2008. Over the course of the next five years, they would gift more than five hundred quilts to people diagnosed with cancer. At their peak, Heartland had about thirty members.
But Toews says in 2012, this charity began making changes and it became less desirable to be affiliated. Due to some of the turmoil happening at the time, the group slimmed to single digits.
The ladies still got together at the Quilters Playhouse but Toews says they eventually decided to pursue becoming incorporated as a not for profit and apply for charity status. That status was awarded in July.
In 2013, the ladies made 175 quilts. Toews says so far in 2014 they've completed 130 quilts and their group has grown to eleven members. These quilts are gifted to Siloam Mission, Quilts of Valour and Linus Project.
"We have been talking about incorporating some closer to home charities into that but we're still talking," says Toews. "But we do want to be responsible with where we let the quilts go so that we know that they're not going to be misappropriated."
Toews says over the years they've received feedback from the recipients of their quilts. She remembers one story in particular. A woman had asked for a quilt for her niece who had brain cancer. The niece had returned from the mission field due to physical difficulties and when she came home for treatment, the brain cancer was diagnosed. The request was made for a yellow quilt, as that was her favourite colour. Toews recalls going out and buying yellow fabric and then completing the quilt and sending it off. When the woman received her quilt she apparently wrapped herself in it and began weeping, noting it was like being wrapped in liquid sunshine. Toews says the last she heard, this woman was now in university working towards a medical degree.
"If our quilts give that kind of comfort, that kind of encouragement to keep on fighting, I think we're doing something valuable," she says.
The Heartland Quilters meet twice a month; the first and third Tuesday of every month.
"That's the day we gather, we visit, we talk about our problems, we talk about new tricks we've learned, we eat, we laugh, we share and the end result is, quilts," says Toews.
She notes, what impresses her is the dedication these women have to their craft. Many times they will dig into their own stash of material to make the quilts. And Toews says there is one lady in particular who is nearly eighty years of age who is willing to drive the forty-five minutes just to get to the Quilters Playhouse.
"Their dedication and their commitment to what we are doing just impresses me beyond words," says Toews.
While connected with the previous charity, Toews says they worked with the Manitoba Youth Centre. Children there would tie quilts for Heartland. The experience was used as a time for guided conversation with the kids. Toews says they were taught that no bickering could happen while making these quilts because they were supposed to be made with love in order that the recipient would feel that love.
"The girls were really, really impacted by this, they really felt as though they were contributing something to the society, something back to the community," recalls Toews.
Heartland has now been provided the opportunity to work with women at the Headingley Correctional Centre to get them to learn how to tie quilts.
"We're excited to be working with them to be a part of helping these women find a useful niche for themselves out in the community," says Toews. "We're excited about the quilts that they are going to be doing for us so that we can send them on to other needy people."
If you would like to make a donation or become part of Heartland Quilters, contact Doris Toews at 326-3148.
*photos courtesy Doris Toews