Imagine a parent’s worst nightmare: your son or daughter are badly hurt or seriously ill, and are taken away from your home to go stay in a hospital in another community.
Organizations like the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) support the families in this situation, providing them with a place to live until such a time as there’s a happy, or sad, ending to the ordeal.
However, a local group of Stettler and area women are doing what they can to help the RMH in Red Deer support these families in terrible circumstances: they are donating comfort quilts.
The quilts vary – some are for infants or young children, some are for teenagers, and some are for adults. All that matters is that the quilt can wrap someone up nice and warm and secure in a moment when those feelings are in short demand, explained Joan Statz, the president of the Stettler Stitchers quilting guild.
The guild meets twice a month and works on their own personal quilts in addition to those donated to RMH and other local organizations and charities. This year’s Festival of Lights raffle quilt was made by the Stettler Stitchers.
The guild’s proudest accomplishment is the lovingly sewn RMH quilts, though, that they know are going to people in emotional times.
“RMH was the charity of choice for us,” Statz said. “We knew right away when we formed they were the ones we wanted to work with.”
The day the RMH opened in Red Deer, a beautiful new building across from the Red Deer Hospital, members of the Stettler Stitchers arrived with six completed quilts in arm, ready to give to staff to help its guests.
“The RMH in Red Deer is quite beautiful,” Statz said.
The Stitchers, which have been around now for about four years, has in that time donated more than 100 quilts to RMH in Red Deer. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“The ladies at RMH are always happy to see us,” Statz said. “They love our quilts and the designs we use.”
It isn’t just RMH that appreciates the quilts, though. The community of Stettler and its surrounding areas has always been very supportive, too.
“We get a lot of donated fabric,” Statz said. “Sometimes people donate completed blocks, or partially completed quilts they’re not finishing.”
Some of the quilts donated to RMH end up being made of material completely donated by the community.
“We may be the ones donating the quilts, but it’s more than just us doing the donating,” Statz said. “More people contribute than just us quilters.”
Since RMH specifically plays host to people who are not from Red Deer, there’s been more than one family from the Stettler area who’s ended up with a Stitchers’ comfort quilt.
What many people don’t realize is the inherent value of a quilt, which requires not only material to create, but time and creativity as well.
“Quilts are very valuable, and I’ve appraised many,” Statz said. “A well-made queen-sized quilt is worth about $2,000.”
Depending on the ability of the maker and the size of the quilt,a quilt can take hours, days, weeks or months to make.
“There are days where I make three quilts, and there are quilts that take three sessions,” Statz said. “There’s no real way to say how long a quilt takes to make.”
The Stettler Stitchers meet at the Stettler Airport on the first and third Thursdays of the month, with the first meeting starting at 1 p.m. and the second at about 5 p.m.
Though the airport doesn’t seem like the logical choice for a guild, several members of the newly formed group recommended it, as they’d had a chance to visit the terminal building because their husbands were members of the flying club.
“There’s only three steps in, which is great when you’re carrying machines,” Statz said. “There’s lots of window and lots of light, lots of space, and we can leave our things there. What’s not to love?”
The guild formed because the other Stettler quilting guild, Heartland Quilters, was a closed group that also happened to be full.
There’s no rivalry between the groups, though.
“We formed with their blessing, and their encouragement,” Statz, who formed the group, said. “I knew there had to be other quilters out there who wanted to be part of a group.”
Right now, 18 quilters call the Stettler Stitchers home, and the group is always ready to welcome more, regardless of talent.
“You can be a complete novice or an expert piecer, and there’s space for you with us,” Statz explained.
The guild is willing to teach new quilters the ropes, helping those curious about quilting decide if the craft is right for them.
Learning from the Stettler Stitchers is quite the opportunity, too, though Statz isn’t eager to toot her own horn.
For several years, Statz has been designing her own fabric, quilt patterns, and now runs her own quilting and woodworking business from her home north of Nevis. She has also made a name for herself in quilting circles, as she’s appeared in magazines, television programs and various other productions.
In the end, she said it’s the comfort quilts that remain her most meaningful and moving contribution with quilts.