SOLDOTNA For Kenai Peninsula quilters, leftover scraps of fabric provide the foundation for one-of-a-kind keepsakes children living in foster care can call their own.
Stitches of Love is a secular, nonprofit volunteer organization based in Soldotna. The first Saturday of every month, area quilters gather in the library of a local elementary school to piece together quilts that will be donated to the Office of Children's Services, Kenai Field Office. The group has roughly 18 members. To date, Stitches of Love has donated more than 200 quilts.
The group was started four years ago by Jane Avery, a seasoned quilter. Avery had seen an article about a similar group in the Lower 48 and decided to establish her own group on the Peninsula. One of the first calls she made was to Sharon Hale, an elementary school library aide with 20 years of quilting experience.
"We got together and talked about what we might do, and then we just started sewing," Hale said.
Avery initially contacted Allison Gottesman, a social worker with the Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children's Services, Kenai Field Office, to find out how the group's services could be of use.
"Avery came to my office one day and said, "I'm a quilter and there are other women like who love quilting. We always have enough leftover fabric. What would you say if we wanted to make quilts for your foster kids?"' Gottesman said.
Gottesman said she started attending meetings in order to let the group know how many quilts were needed and what kind.
"Of course quilts for babies and little girls are the most popular to make, but we have a large number teenage boys who need them too," Gottesman said.
The quilts line the halls of the Kenai field office, and every child is allowed to pick out his or her own. Each one has a tag that reads "Made with love by Stitches of Love," along with the child's name.
"We write the name on the back so it's always that child's quilt," Hale said.
Stitches of Love also donates to the OCS field offices in Seward and Homer.
Most recently, the group started sewing pillowcases and filling them with personal care items like toothbrushes, combs and soaps. Hale said many of the items are donated, but what they can't get through donations they go out and purchase themselves.
When the group first started, "it was strictly us - our own fabric, our own machines," Hale said. "We had to pay to get the quilts quilted. Often we'd get a good deal, but sometimes not. We usually had our own fabric, but the batting is expensive."
The group recently started receiving donations and recognition. The Cook Inlet Chapter of the state government union Peninsula Rotary Clubs have donated money. Robin Place Fabric in Soldotna has donated fabric at cost. In April 2006, the OCS Kenai Field Office in conjunction with Alaska Center for Resource Families hosted an awards luncheon and fabric drive for Stitches of Love.
"The families so much appreciate what we do," Hale said. "We have ladies with all different abilities who volunteer. It's just a very cool thing."
Gottesman said she has received nothing but praise for the group from foster families. "This group sews its heart out," Gottesman said. "They have just been amazing."
For information or to donate, e-mail Sharon Hale at garyhalegci.net.
Information from: Alaska Journal of Commerce, http://www.alaskajournal.com
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