Salem quilts donated to Moose Factory community
The Salem Valley Quilters, a small but dedicated group which meets twice monthly, made and donated 30 quilts to be distributed in Moose Factory, ON. From left, Irene Clarke, Elsie Cullum, Salem United Church Pastor Ian Robb, Brenda Dolha, Wendy Carr, Kendra Peters, Kim Carr and Doris Thomas. Photo by Mandy Martin
“What can I do?” Turns out, individuals can do a lot, especially when they get together.
The Salem Valley Quilters is a diligent group of 15 women who gather twice a month at the Heritage United Church in Salem east of Colborne to make quilts: large, small, comfort (lie-on-the-couch size), crib, and lap-top —hundreds of them. They’ve given away 692 since 2009,
247 last year alone. The ladies’ don’t bother to count the quilts they have made for sale to fund purchase of materials complete their handiwork.
Most of the quilt tops are made from donated materials. The beautiful quilts have gone around the world. There’s a Kenyan school classroom named for Salem group after they raised funds from quilt sales to support that project. Others go to the Children’s Aid Society, the Salvation Army, the children’s psychiatric ward at the North Bay hospital, to Canadian Armed Forces veterans, women’s shelters, to the sick, lonely or to the sick, the isolated, and myriad community fund-raising causes.
“Anyone is welcome to join us the first and third Tuesday of every month 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and bring your own lunch,” Kim Carr of the Salem Valley Quilters says. “Some people come to learn. Some don’t sew but help with ironing. Everyone’s welcome.”
Enter Irene Clarke of Castleton and Doris Thomas of Kingston, sisters into their fifth year of a 10-year commitment to reach out to the native population of Moose Factory, ON. When Salem United Church Pastor Ian Robb recounted the two-person efforts, the Salem Valley Quilters immediately stepped up. Sunday, Nov. 20, 30 quilts were presented for delivery to people in Moose Factory.
“Our northern brothers and sisters have experienced booze and beads for beaver pelts; they have experienced lies and deceit, broken treaties and unkept promises,” Clarke said to the Salem United Church congregation. “The aboriginal people have endured residential schools — a black mark in Canadian history. Indigenous people of Canada have lots of reasons to be leery of good-intentioned whites. Now, with some long-awaited apologies, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, perhaps we can begin to make amends.”
“There are so many challenges in the north in addition to the cost of heating, food and clothing,” Thomas said. “The list goes on: few job opportunities, combined with special issues, makes one wonder ‘What can I do?’ The needs are so many. But look what Gord Downie did in Kingston at the Tragically Hip concert. With an audience of 20-million people, he shook Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau’s hand and asked that Trudeau keep his promise to the aboriginal people.”
The two women are committed to visit Moose Factory annually, supporting community improvement initiatives like on-the-land experiences for the young people, establishing a clothing exchange, supporting the Christmas hamper program. It’s important the connections continue, the women say.
“You cannot believe how surprised our new friends are when we keep returning,” Clarke says. “It seems many people say they will return and they don’t. Just being there and showing you care means so much. Our determination was to make this a 10-year commitment. After five years, we feel we are beginning to be accepted and loved.”
It’s all in the touch, the women say: “The touch of love, the touch of healing, the touch of compassion, the touch or reassurance, the touch that says ‘you are special, wanted, held in high regard’. We encourage you to reach out and touch.”
If interested in the Salem Valley Quilters, call Wendy or Kim Carr at 613-475-5816.