'They have nothing. These will be something that belongs to them,' said organizer Maureen Carr.
A group of quilters in southern Manitoba, Canada, have been working tirelessly for weeks to offer a warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees arriving in the country. Dozens of volunteers—most of whom are retired women from Carman and surrounding communities—joined forces to make quilts for Ukrainian families, after organizer Maureen Carr put out a call for action on Facebook last month. "Many hands make light work. I put a call out on Facebook, calling all quilters. And I got the response beyond belief," Carr told CBC. "There'll be about six to twelve women going with the sewing machines on one side."
Within just six days of launching the effort, the group produced an astounding 130 quilts and afghans. According to Carr, about 15-20 volunteers show up at each quilting session, while others pitch in ironing, tying and "sandwiching" layers of cloth into blankets. She shared that she was watching a news story about the war in Ukraine a few weeks ago when she felt compelled to help. Upon contacting the local legion about her plan, she was immediately offered the use of a hall two days a week to make the quilts.
Both quilters and non-quilters alike jumped at the opportunity to help. "Anyone who wants to come and help, you're more than welcome," Carr said, before adding with a chuckle: "If you don't quilt or sew at all, we can get you sewing if you really want to." Each quilt produced by the group will be given to a refugee fleeing the war in Ukraine when they arrive in the province. The volunteers have made them in a range of patterns, colors and sizes—ranging from baby blankets to queen-size blankets—so that each individual gets their own, rather than giving out just one per family.
"They have nothing. These will be something that belongs to them," Carr said. "If they're just watching TV or reading a book, they've got this quilt to put around them, and be comforted that someone does care." Earlier this month, Carr and the volunteers put the quilts on display at the Carman Active Living Centre where a steady stream of people came through to carefully examine and admire their handiwork. "Over 140 people came to see what we had been doing... We had 109 quilts and 21 afghans on display. Several people have given us finished quilts & afghans and the gals have been working on Mondays and Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays. People are continually dropping off fabric... The generosity has been overwhelming... I really can't think how to thank everyone. When we had our quilt display.....people were very generous with donations and any money left over at the end of this project will go directly to help the Ukrainian Refugees," Carr wrote on Facebook.
Carr revealed that although figuring out how to get the quilts into the hands of refugees was a bit of a challenge, they recently got in touch with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress' branch in Winnipeg, which will alert them when it hears of new arrivals. "We'll be getting people who are going to Winnipeg with empty vehicles to stop at my place, and I'll fill them up," Carr said, adding that some of their couriers include a Ukrainian Orthodox priest who holds services in the Carman area twice a month, as well as hockey fans heading to Jets games.
In a Facebook update shared Monday, Carr revealed that the group currently has a total of 278 quilts to donate to Ukrainian refugees. Nigel Bart, an artist who looks after the gallery at the Golden Prairie Arts Council in Carman, expressed amazement at how the community came together for the cause. "I'm awestruck by the way the community works together here," he said. "There's this hive intelligence. They're really in tune. Quilts are immensely symbolic. You're sewing patches, different fabrics together. This is what multiculturalism here in Canada is about."