UPDATE Winter Holiday 2017 - to inspire the public to support their local shelters:
LIfelong arts and response work with red cross and others, my experience of Operation Hope Shelter for Homeless, in Fairfield Connecticut USA was unique. Among other things, at the end of my involvement there, there was this quilt. And it's story.
The Quilt was made from "Bits and Pieces" - remnants of fabrics used to decorate the place or alter clothing for the temp shelter residents, for a nice appearance on job interviews etc. that would allow them to get on with their lives, self-directing and well.
The Shelter Quilt, to me, became, a symbol of the shelter itself, which through its services, makes lives whole again - lives that were once in " bits and pieces" - as life will do.
The symbolism of the Shelter Quilt and its being were so intense that only Monday, December 2016, TWENTY years after it was made, did it find it's home as a gift to the founders of the project.
For the story - READ ON:
Recovering by helping others, from sudden and early widowhood and then our children's empty nesting, I was Injured in an accident, right after my return from Redcross' ARCODS Assistant Station Manager service. It was so strange, after years of seeing to the emergencies of others, to BE the emergency, myself ! Several short term living arrangements happened while waiting for setup of my care things. One day, I was the helper, the next day, the helped. Very odd. My background was lovely and my works fine and often above average, but the recession hurt the money, so I paid it off to help the children to their majority and , back home in Connecticut, felt I'd have no problem finding nice new work. I had barely recovered financially, when this second injury reduced me to poverty. But my background was very honored and I proved it and won good care setup, and so, I saw that I could still help specially, though disabled.
I scrubbed and disinfected, and lead singing and beauty and computer intimidation and art and resume classes and more. The Redcross work gave confidence and skills.
The quilt was the result of my counseling, and seamstress-ing for residents - the men and women were mostly those who needed a nice wardrobe look as they sought job interviews and new work so they could get on with things. Our Shelter was in a wealthy area, so the clothing donations were smashing but often ill-fitting. So I made clothes or altered them for at least a dozen; made chintz type slipcovers for the furniture and more.
This I did right through the "moments" at shelter - my own injuries' discomforts, plus the "moments" of the others: anguish, crisis, tears, occasional fights, thefts, and the one time I helped remove a very large knife from a heartbroken desperate young wife and mother with drug issues, with ideas to end it all.
There were also the social NIMBI things all shelters suffer; thankfully, these were offset by community and church support. Like this one: the Town Food Pantry Garden was across the street from the quite and green town shelter and we, the injured, had been hauling hose across the street daily in the hot weather , to keep it watered and growing. But then, a few yards away the firehouse next to the garden brought the fun fix: the men were cleaning their hoses and simply smiled and told us to get out of the way....ta dahhhh! They simply aimed the firehose over the fence and did so daily afterward. Best garden in town! There were the gifts from the people in the community - food, music and invitations to join in the nice social events, and famiy fun, to make those at the shelter feel less like social lepers...so much good was done!
For some reason, when I did the sewing there, I saved all the fabric scraps from it, when my disability arrangements were made and I had moved on. One day, I found the scrap bag and thought to make "Quite a Quilt" - I cried and laughed as I pinned and sewed, and sometimes shook with fear, remembering - all alone in my lovely new bungalow. "Bits and Pieces" I named it from the comments of one of the women at the time, referring to the famous old rock song of the same name. Seemed right. Then , to be sure to get on with it, I labelled some of the remnants on the quilt and folded it up and packed it carefully AWAY. End. Resolved. Done. AWAY.
Every few years I'd pull it out and see how I was doing - I am so much more than fine! Busy happy and in the shows and regaining cash after all that injury before I am too old. Thank you so much! I have donated cash and work to surpass my expense, using my artwork, to show my thanks in help to others.
And today, I am sending this on to Operation Hope. They are still there, and helping over twenty years later!
I want to offer the quilt to them for a fundraiser. Or gift it to one of the founders. I made hanging loops at one end, for wall display. I am so proud of its message. Few of us take the journey unscathed, but there was the feeling that , if I COULD make that quilt, it was one more sign: THE HOUSE WAS GOOD - and probably still is!
The communications with OH after all these years kept losing focue, but the gift was arranged and the quilt shipped. I live on the other side of the state now. In accepting the Quilt, last year, this closure was in my emails:
We did receive your beautiful quilt and, as I mentioned, I am going to be presenting it to Reverend David Spollett, our founder, as a 30 year anniversary gift. We are so grateful for this gift. Please know it has sentimental value for us as well.