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'It’s like being given a hug by a caring stranger': Quilters Guild gives back with every stitch

The 120-strong membership of the York Region non-profit donated 300 quilts in 2020 alone, continuing a long tradition of generosity to those who need it most

As the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the world early 2020, it was the comfort of tried-and-true traditions — like arts and crafts — that provided an escape for many.

But for the 120-odd women of the Region of York Quilters Guild, crafting was, for the most part, business as usual. Switching seamlessly to monthly Zoom meetings and welcoming a wide array of aspiring and experienced quilters alike, the non-profit continued to bring quilters of the region together, encourage the development of new and old skills, and pass along their knowledge of the craft — all while giving back to their community in a bigger way than ever before.

Noting the growing need for blankets as shelters experienced COVID-related hikes, members of the Region of York Quilters Guild decided to act. Coming together to share fabric, tips, and good conversation, they would succeed in both making and donating a staggering 300 quilts within the year.

Crafted from community donations, members’ own material, and donated fabric from retailer Northcott Fabrics, the quilts were gifted to local group and long-term care homes, hospices, and, with a few adjustments to size, Southlake Regional Health Centre’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

The charitable program, called Outreach, also served to fill other areas of need, with quilted placemats donated to Meals on Wheels and CHATS and handmade pillow cases delivered to Newmarket’s Belinda’s Place, Rose of Sharon and more.

Fabric costs alone run at a minimum of $200 to $300 per quilt, meaning thousands of dollars go into the Guild’s charitable creations each year.

“When these people receive these quilts, it’s like they’re being given a hug by a caring stranger,” said Saskia Loomans-Jones, a 15-year volunteer with the Region of York Quilters Guild. “Some of the work is absolutely stunning, and it’s thrilling to give them out.”

Established in November 1985 by a small group of passionate quilters, the Region of York Quilters Guild has, through the years, ballooned from its original 25 members to a high of 200.

In addition to offering youth classes on sewing, hosting speakers from the international quilting scene, and running Outreach since the early '90s, they also support Quilts of Valour, a national program that provides quilts of comfort to injured Canadian Armed Forces veterans, past and present.

With the help of local organizations and volunteers like the Region of York Quilters Guild, Quilts of Valour Canada is currently 16,970 quilts into their 20,000 goal by the end of 2021.

“The look on their faces and how they react to receiving these quilts is amazing,” said Naomi Babineau, Guild member and the region’s Quilts of Valour representative. “One man said he values his Quilt of Valour more than his medal... another woman said the day she received her Quilt of Valour was the day she decided to live.”

Next up for the Region of York Quilters Guild is their quilt show A Million Little Stitches, which has been delayed to April 2023. Funds raised through the raffle of the event’s charity quilts have gone to Yellow Brick House, Inn From the Cold, Kerry’s Place Autism Services, and more.

The group encourages anyone interested in joining to contact them online.

“It heals you, when you’re making a quilt for someone else,” said Babineau. “That’s what I’ve found about quilters. They’re very generous, loving people. They want to do things for other people. That’s where their happiness is.”