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Comfort and care through quilting

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 02/4/2018 11:15 AM

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Irene Maynard, Gilberte Fillion, Lucie Lambert and Irene Catellier, showing off some of their quilts, are four of seven women from St Malo currently working together to create thousands of quilts for the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba touch quilt project.

DAVE BAXTER | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Irene Maynard, Gilberte Fillion, Lucie Lambert and Irene Catellier, showing off some of their quilts, are four of seven women from St Malo currently working together to create thousands of quilts for the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba touch quilt project.

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A group of St Malo women have found a way to put their creative talents to good use, and to offer thousands of Manitoba seniors the gift of warmth and comfort.

St Malo senior citizens Irene Maynard, Gilberte Fillion, Lucie Lambert, Irene Catellier, Carol Mitchell, Carmelle Bourgeous, and Lucie Tardiff are all spending countless hours every week working together to create thousands of quilts for the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba’s touch quilt project.

The project sees volunteers spend time creating elaborate quilts, and those quilts are handed out to thousands of seniors who live in long-term care facilities in Manitoba.

"The touch quilt project is about letting our residents who live in long-term care facilities know that the community has not forgotten about them," Alzheimer Society of Manitoba South Eastman Regional Coordinator Leona Doerksen said.

"In general, many seniors often feel like the community has forgotten about them and that somehow they have outdone their usefulness and they no longer have anything to offer to society.

"That is the stigmatism that seniors often have to overcome."

Doerksen said the quilters are creating something that is helping other Manitobans, but she added the women are also helping themselves by staying busy and socially active.

"These ladies are doing what they are doing because it’s important, but as well they have decided to stay socially engaged and put their skills into bringing joy to the lives of others," Doerksen said.

Maynard, one of the seven women working on the quilts said she believes working on the project has been beneficial to both her mental and physical heath.

"It’s therapy for us and I do wonder what I would be doing if I wasn’t doing this," Maynard said. "I might just be sitting in the house doing nothing."

"It keeps the mind busy, and it keeps the hands busy."

They have also personally travelled to many of the care facilities to hand out their quilts, and Catellier said the reaction they get when they hand them out is something that "warms the heart."

"It was just amazing because we were taking out all the quilts and they would look at them and touch them and say how nice they are, and we would say ‘Which one would you like?’

"Many could not believe they were getting them for nothing, and some got very emotional. One lady even started crying. It means a lot to them."

According to Doerksen, the St Malo group often works as many as 40 hours per week and have created about 2,000 quilts over a three-year period.

January was Alzheimer’s Awareness month in Canada, and Doerksen said she also believes projects like the touch quilt project are a way to raise awareness about how Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect seniors and often isolate them.

"About 60 percent of seniors admit they would be ashamed to admit they have dementia, so we still have a lot of work to do," Doerksen said.

"Seniors shouldn’t be ashamed of growing old, they should be proud of growing old."

The Alzheimer’s Society said their goal with the project is to eventually hand out a quilt to every senior citizen in long-term care in Manitoba.

More information on the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba’s quilt project and how to get involved can be found by visiting alzheimer.mb.ca/touchquiltproject/.

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