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‘Blankets of Love’ Attracts CRC Quilter

Three of Jody Groenendyk’s quilts for Blankets of Love.

A compassionate quilt ministry, founded in Alberta in 1996, collects colorful, handmade quilts and gifts them to hospital patients experiencing mental illness. Over the past year quilts were also given to Ukrainian refugees arriving in Canada. Blankets of Love Foundation for Mental Health was started by Edmonton (Alta.)-area registered nurse Sheila Ethier. She tells the story on the foundation’s website:

“I was a patient on the psychiatric ward at the University of Alberta Hospital several times for the treatment of major depression. I remember how lonely and isolated I had felt. … I was always cold and looking for more blankets. One afternoon, while at home, I came across a quilt my grandmother had made for me when I was a young girl. … In reliving memories of my grandmother and of the love expressed in making a quilt just for me, I immediately felt a peace wash over me. I covered myself with my quilt made of love. … In those quiet comforting moments I knew 'Blankets of Love' would help other people. And so the program began.” 

Ethier and her contributing quilters first started by sharing quilts with that U of A psychiatric ward and also with Alberta Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. Now they ship quilts to several hospitals across Canada. With the help of hundreds of volunteer quilters, Blankets of Love has donated over 3,500 quilts. Jody Groenendyk, a research associate studying cancer research at U of A and a member of  West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, is one of those volunteer quilters. She was drawn to the mission of Blankets of Love and founder Ethier's openness about mental illness.

“I started quilting in 2020 during an extremely difficult time, and with the added stress of COVID isolation, my mental health was fragile,” Groenendyk said. “Therapy and quilting helped me achieve some balance in my life. I now sit on the board for Blankets of Love and provide longarm quilting for tops that are donated. I have also made and donated more than 50 quilts.” Longarm quilting is the process by which a longarm sewing machine is used to sew together a quilt top, quilt batting, and quilt backing into a finished quilt.

Blankets of Love received a record number of donated quilts last year—1,373—after hosting three campaigns. Six of their donors from across Canada donated more than 50 quilts each. Close to half of the 2022 stockpile—582—were donated to Ukrainian refugees. 

“I am comforted by the fact that I can provide a quilt to someone who is lonely, sick, and distressed,” said Groenendyk, “and I hope they realize that somewhere, someone is thinking of them.”

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