Stitch it Forward

The brilliant author Maya Angelou once stated, “I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” Thinking about how often I’ve been on the receiving end of a kind deed, it’s always inspiring to want to pay it forward in some way. It could be something as small as buying the next person’s coffee, or as grand as leaving your life savings to an important cause. There’s no question that a simple kindness can brighten one person’s day or have the ability to effect change across the planet.

In Lethbridge, a group of women is working to establish a non-profit that “stitches” it forward, to provide essential clothing, blankets, and custom medical attire needs for the community. Diane Herrick was inspired to create the Stitch it Forward Society of Lethbridge after witnessing the need firsthand. Her husband suffered a heart attack last December, which resulted in double bypass surgery. When he was recovering in the hospital in Calgary, every time he coughed it would hurt. A volunteer brought him a stuffed heart pillow to hold to his chest, which helped with the pain but also brought him comfort. Diane learned that the pillows were made by a group of volunteers, but there weren’t always enough for every patient. Seeing how much it helped her husband, she and her daughter, Cora Walkey, decided to start creating some. Then Diane received an email from a woman in an Edmonton hospital looking for scent pillows for premature babies.

“Because they're in incubators, and can't be with their moms, the moms rub these little pillows on their body, and that gets a scent on them. Then they put these underneath the newborn babies, and they learn the scent of their mother that way, and it creates a great bond for them,” says Diane. “So I just got thinking… there's so much need out there. How can I use my sewing skills, my knitting skills, my crocheting skills?” She spoke with a number of organizations and quickly learned there is a need for a variety of specially made items, and that a central location to help distribute these items may be beneficial. “The need is great in Lethbridge. There are a lot of different groups and organizations making blankets, and making hats for the newborn babies at the hospital and stuff like that. But then sometimes they don't always know what to do with these things that they make. So I thought, put it all together,” she says.

Diane applied for non-profit incorporation and charitable status in January. Now they are trying to raise funds to establish a home for the organization. They hope to open the doors in January 2020. A fundraising garage sale is planned for July, and they hope to win a grant from the Field Law Community Fund Program. But to satisfy the need in the community, they will require volunteers willing to lend a hand, as well as donations. Volunteers will sew many items for those in need such as quilts, hats for chemotherapy patients, cancer port covers, seat belt covers, altered clothing for physically disabled individuals, sleep apnea hose covers, heart pillows, and toys. They will up-cycle materials and old clothing to prevent it from going into the landfill. The facility would also become a teaching centre, so those who would like to learn how to quilt, sew, knit, or crochet, could learn from the volunteers to help stitch it forward. Businesses could also use the facility to do some philanthropic team building. The items would be distributed to local agencies, as well as assist when disaster strikes elsewhere in Alberta.

“I think it's going to be a fantastic organization and encourage anybody that has any desire to either learn or has quilting, knitting, crocheting, crafting of any kind abilities, that they can either teach other people how to do it, to pay it forward, and to get other people excited about it. And then they can also make items that we desperately need,” says Diane. “We just need to know what the need is out there, who and how we can direct it and get some people working.”

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