Southern Alberta quilters helping mental health patients
CALGARY -- A group of southern Alberta quilters are on a mission to spread a blanket of love across the city's hospitalized patients.
The goal is 250 quilts to be made by April 6. Quilters in the Calgary region are busy making quilts to reach that goal so they can deliver them to patients at the Foothills, Peter Lougheed, South Health Campus and Rockyview General hospitals.
The initiative is being spearheaded by Sheila Ethier, the executive director for the Blankets of Love Foundation for Mental Health. Ethier founded the charity in 1996 and has been challenged by mental health issues for almost 30 years. Since its inception Blankets of Love has donated over 4,500 quilts to patients struggling with mental illness across the country.
"The patients don't (usually) receive anything and they get this quilt and they think it has to go back at the end of the day," said Ethier. "When they're told that's their forever blanket of love, they're deeply moved."
It's a national program but the pandemic has restricted what hospitals can accept for patients. Recently Ethier has focused efforts on her home province and earlier this year 340 blankets were delivered to Alberta Hospital Edmonton.
"Quilters quilt for the love of it," said Ethier. "They're always trying to provide comfort to family members or friends and when they've used up that population, they offer charity quilts."
WHEATLAND QUILTERS GUILD
The Wheatland Quilters Guild is based in Strathmore and has 33 members. The guild helps others in their community with blankets regularly and has come up with 60 quilts for Blankets of Love.
Connie Barteaux, one of its founders, said many people all over the world are struggling with mental health right now, including members of the guild.
"A lot of people keep it quiet," said Barteaux. "But we need to speak about it, it's normal, it's the new norm and with COVID-19, with all the issues happening, there's going to be lots of issues with mental health."
Wendy Nielsen, one of the founding members of the guild, said the act of sewing a quilt is a stress reliever in itself. She's happy when someone wraps themselves in one she's made.
"A lot of our quilts are (made with) donated fabric," said Nielsen. "Some is donated by our guild members and others are from our community members so this is a great way to show them what you donate to us does get used."
Psychiatry medical teams at the major Calgary hospitals are ready to receive blankets of love for patients in their care on April 6. Ethier said volunteers will soon deliver the finished products and recipients are given a few options.
"They get to choose one that's appealing to them but generally they're just mostly excited to get any kind of a quilt," said Ethier. "We need support and we need to know that we're valued and definitely everyone needs some love right now."
Learn more about Blankets of Love here: www.blanketsoflove.ca