by Chris Burbridge
Every September about 36 women head up to Gracefield Christian Camp and Retreat Centre in Gracefield, Quebec for a weekend of quilting, laughing, eating, hiking, swimming and even more quilting. While most are members of Glebe-St. James United Church, there are also friends, sisters, mothers, daughters and granddaughters.
We arrive on Friday afternoon, each one of us with a sewing machine, a pile of fabric and just a few personal items (like a change of clothes!). After driving the 90 kilometres from Ottawa, we pull up to the door and start unloading. Every able body helps out lugging the bags, boxes, cases, fabric rolls and suitcases. Within two hours, the dining hall and meeting room of White Pine Lodge look like the workrooms of a garment factory.
The quilters have a full schedule for the weekend from Friday to Sunday after lunch: instructions for a quilting technique and making a project; workshop time; time to make baby quilts; show and tell (creative showcase); informal worship service at the lakeshore; and leisure time for hiking, wandering the campsite, swimming, catching up with friends and meeting new quilters.
This year was the 12th year for our Patchwork Pilgrimage at Gracefield. There were 31 of us including three little girls. We have grown in number each year and now take up two residential buildings: White Pine Lodge and Beaver Lodge. White Pine is a comfortable building with all the amenities of home, plus a dining hall and commercial kitchen with a cook. Beaver Lodge was built in the early 1900s and was the original cottage of Ottawa’s Billings family. It’s a little more rustic, but its big fireplace and close proximity to Lac Castor make it a popular spot with our quilters.
At Glebe-St. James our vision is “Reaching into faith, out to others.” Our quilt retreat weekend is a part of walking down that path. We make baby quilts for the clients of St. Mary’s Home, a not-for-profit charitable organization proudly helping young parents succeed with healthy, thriving children. By the end of the weekend, there are usually 15 to 20 quilts completed plus many more taken home for final stitching.
Several weeks after the quilt retreat, the quilts are displayed during our worship service and then presented to a representative of St. Mary’s Home. On Sunday, November 4, more than 35 quilts could be seen hanging from the rails, spread around the choir loft and draped on the chancel. As usual, each quilt was unique with its own colours and design. Mayda Embree, program coordinator at St. Mary’s Home, was on hand to receive the quilts.
St. Mary’s Home is now celebrating 85 years of serving marginalized young pregnant women (ages 13 – 25), young parents and their children. There are two main components to St. Mary’s programs. The residence provides housing to about 70 young women and their infants each year. It is the only residence of its kind in Eastern Ontario.
The Young Parents Outreach Centre opened in 2002. Annually, its diverse programs help 450 youths and 300 children under the age of four. On any given day, the schedule can include school classroom time, health care clinics for moms and babies, nutrition classes, mental health programs, life skills programs and more. The Child Development Room provides a safe and rich environment for children four months to five years old while their parents participate in the Centre’s programs.
More than 20 organizations partner with St. Mary’s. If you would like to get involved with the good work of St. Mary’s Home, there are always volunteer opportunities. You can also donate money or goods. Please check out their website (www.stmaryshome. com) to see what they are looking for right now.
If you would like to participate in next year’s Patchwork Pilgrimage, information will be available on the Glebe-St. James’s website (www. glebestjames.ca) next May. We also have an informal quilting and crafting group that gets together most Monday afternoons. Please contact the church office at 613-236-0617 for information.
Chris Burbridge (with Judy Wolanski) has been leading the Patchwork Pilgrimage for more than 12 years.