By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska
The American Red Cross of Alaska has partners throughout the state that offer unique assistance to individuals or families in need due to an array of disasters, one being home fires. The Red Cross is known for responding to home fires – working closely with first responders, and offering shelter, food, mental health services, financial assistance, medication and even eyeglasses replacements to those affected.
Although the Red Cross offers all of these free of services to those who have suffered through a disaster, there are several additional services that community partners have become champions in, in their effort to assist the Red Cross and help those that are affected or displaced by home fires.
One such partner is the Cabin Fever Quilters’ Guild. This organization was established in 1979 in Fairbanks, Alaska. The primary focus of the organization, since the beginning, has been to donate quilts to those involved in home fires.
Elaine Thompson McGee is the Committee Chairman of Community Sewing for the quilters’ guild. She has diligently served with the organization for 26 years and she continues to support the creation and donation of quilts for those in need today.
“After September 11, 2001, [Cabin Fever Quilters’ Guild] started donating their quilts to their local Red Cross for home fire victims,” said Thompson McGee.
Thompson McGee has been the liaison between her organization and the Red Cross of Alaska Far North and Interior team for six years.
“Direct contact to hand out quilts to victims of house fires is why we chose to partner with the Red Cross,” said Thompson McGee. “The quilts are given out to all the cities and villages that our local Fairbanks Red Cross chapter services.”
Between September and May, guild members work on the quilts once a month; however, the project is annual. Some quilters work from home and donate to the cause. A few local organizations like Faith Baptist Church, Host Lions Club and Davis Hall donate space for the committee to meet and sew their quilts.
Donated material is preferred for the creation of the quilts; however, when you need that ‘perfect’ color to pull out other colors within the top of the quilt or the border to make it a masterpiece, sometimes you just have to purchase what is needed. The quilt will never be complete if you are unable to complete your vision for it. After your vision is complete, the quilt tops, batting and a quilt back are pressed together on a long arm quilting machine. The long arm helps keep the material in place and secure while sewing. Once the quilting is complete, a binding and label are attached.
This process is how the guild replenishes quilts for home fire survivors, which they donate to the Red Cross as well as other community partnerships to provide to community members when there is a need.
Why are the quilts and the people creating them so important to the Red Cross, and to their community? The answer is – it is a labor of love, no matter the day, month or year.
As humans, we all have the same core needs – security, warmth, and a sense of calm, knowing someone cares about us during everyday life and especially during and after a disaster. The Red Cross, with the help of our partners, offers those same effective techniques through the power of kindness: offering a quilt and other disaster relief services to those that are affected by a disaster.
There are individuals that may consider a disaster in their lives to be one of the most devastating and lowest points they could possibly experience. Having the ability to support that individual immediately with a quilt, just by gently placing it over their shoulders, and offering a little one-on-one personal care just for a moment, provides a special kind of comfort and relief. Thank you to our partners, quilters and donors for your hard work in creating and providing quilts, and comfort, to those in need.