UPDATE December 14, 2016
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.
It was made from "Bits and Pieces" , remnants of fabrics used to decorate the place or alter clothing for residents, for a nice appearance on job interviews etc.
The Shelter Quilt 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 and its being were so intense that only Monday, TWENTY years after it was made, did it find it's home as a gift to the founders of the project. READ ON:
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, so they took good care of me, and I saw that I could still help specially, though disabled.
After widowhood, the recession and empty nesting I was already jogging full time to make my new life, and then injury made employment not possible for awhile. I got me in line and then I used my fine background and skills to help at the new local women's shelter and one of the results was the colorful Shelter Quilt.
I scrubbed and disinfected the place daily - we all did our part of upkeep - and was moral support when the new shelter project came under fire for the money spent on quality cleaners, having had the pro shelter setup from Red Cross. I sang and did arts groups and counseled ... mostly just listened ... when it came to me to do. I cooked and served food and when the food drive with USPS yielded $25K worth of food in endless postal carts, to be hauled, unloaded, sorted and banked to feed the needy, I did all I could do with that. I did book archival at the library because it was quiet and easier - my injuries made normal functioning sometimes difficult.
The quilt was the result of my counseling - the men and women were mostly those who lost jobs and were broke. Our Shelter was in a wealthy area, so the clothing donations were smashing but often ill-fitting. I had training in "couture" as a girl and later some related to the art. 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 - anguish, crisis, tears, occasional fights, occasional issues with substances 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; the sometimes bad language; the thefts of any of nicer possessions I stupidly kept around; the bad politics between the shelter system and Red Cross and other more-established responders, while they all learned to integrate the shelter system in to the mix of help that saves lives every day. There was the time the Pantry Garden across the street from the shelter won response from the Fire Department next door...we, the injured, had be hauling hose across the street daily in the hot weather, when a few yards away the firemen were cleaning their hoses and simply smiled and told us to get out of the way....ta dahhhh! Best garden in town! There were the gifts from the people in the community - food, music and invitations to join in the nice events, to make those at the shelter feel less like social lepers...so much!
For some reason, I saved all the fabric scraps from that place when my disability arrangements were made and I had moved on. 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. 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.
Every few years I pull it out and see how I am 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!
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 display. I am so proud of it. Few of us take the journey unscathed, but if I could make that quilt, THE HOUSE WAS GOOD - and probably still is!
"Art With Heart" , a part of my arts business, helps very successfully and so you see my offer is bona fide and these photos support my story here. God bless you all this Christmas 2016!
In accepting the Quilt this week 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.