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West Nipissing volunteers quilt for a cause—to comfort cancer patients

Since 2007, volunteers provide free quilts for people living with cancer
Victorias Quilts Canada~West Nipissing branch~FEb 22 2022~photo supplied (1)small~edit one~crop2
A bounty of quilts for a good cause, the West Nipissing branch of Victoria's Quilts Canada highlight their creations / Photo supplied

Members of the West Nipissing branch of Victoria’s Quilts Canada continue to quilt away throughout the pandemic to provide comfort to people living with cancer in the community.

Victoria’s Quilts Canada is a non-profit organization based in 24 communities across the country and comprised of over 1,300 volunteers. About 20 of those volunteers call the West Nipissing branch home, which is helmed by Suzanne Davidson-Noel, who has coordinated the group since 2015.

She took over after Bonnie Stewart handed over the reigns. Stewart founded the local branch in 2007 and coordinated the group’s efforts until Davidson-Noel took the position. Although pandemic restrictions have slowed the group’s activities— “for the last two years we’ve been quilting at home, mostly,” Davidson-Noel said—their spirit remains strong, and they are still producing about 40 quilts per year.

In a regular year, when the team is functioning at full steam, and able to meet at Club 50 in Cache Bay or in the basement of St. Andrew’s United Church “for a full day of quilting,” they usually produce 70 quilts per year.

The social aspect is an important part of the group, Davidson-Noel explained, adding that it’s nice for the members to spend time together as they quilt, talk about their projects, and enjoy some coffee and treats with the crew. Such simple pleasures were difficult to enjoy with restrictions over the past years— “so many things you take for granted”—she said, adding she’s pleased things are beginning to open up and soon those rooms will be filled with the sound of sewing machines.

The group is composed of local women, some of whom are retired nurses--“the group’s getting a little old,” Davidson-Noel joked, noting that “all members are united by two things, a passion for quilting, and most of us have also lost somebody to cancer.”

This latter point is what makes getting together so important, she noted, as the comfort derived from other members is “therapeutic” for those who have experience dealing with the horrors of cancer.

This firsthand understanding of the disease inspires members to keep quilting and continue doing their part to provide comfort for those undergoing treatments. The quilts are free for those living with cancer, and anyone can reach out to Davidson-Noel to request one at [email protected]. “We can get a quilt to everyone who wants one.”

To ensure the quilting continues, the group hosts fundraisers to cover the costs of operation, primarily the price of quilting materials, which like most items during the pandemic, continue to increase. On average, the material costs per quilt amounts to $150. They hold an annual plant sale at the end of May, and put on the occasional craft show to offset these costs and keep the needles threading.

Victoria’s Quilts Canada is also a registered charity, so people can donate there as well, and those funds funnel into the operations of the regional groups. Since forming in 1999, the total output from Victoria’s Quilts is 87,766, with almost 8,000 alone in 2019, which was the organization’s peak production year.

Davidson-Noel is impressed with the numbers, and happy to take part in something that provides so much comfort for those in need. Her branch receives a lot of thank you cards from quilt recipients, and members realize “how much it has touched them,” to receive a blanket.

“It really makes our work worthwhile,” Davidson-Noel said. “It makes us feel like we’re doing a good thing.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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