Thanks to the dedication of four talented quilters, dozens of people across the state will have a warmer Christmas thanks to a gift of a handcrafted quilt.
Marie Lanzi, Fran Zanni, Evelyn Cedroni and Pat Baxter of the Giving Quilt Group have worked all year long backstitching, patchworking and binding fabrics to create works of art that are not only beautiful but fully functional.
“We’ve been doing quilts since 2009, and so far we’ve given out about 50 quilts a year,” said Lanzi, whose group has since donated quilts to the McAuley House, St. Mary’s Home for Children, the Holy Family Home for Women and Children, and Operation Stand Down, amongst others. “Whenever we hear of an organization in need, this is what we do; we make quilts.”
The Giving Quilt Group meets weekly at the Johnston Senior Center for about two hours. At the center, the group has closets set aside for the tools of their trade and supplies. They typically start a project at the center then bring their work home during the week. Fabrics and other material also come donated from the women’s “own stash” that they’ve accumulated over time.
Lanzi said it takes “forever” to make a quilt, which often depends upon the pattern being used, but on average takes about two weeks to complete. Each woman, who consider themselves “fabric-holics,” works on their own quilt that’s created with sewing machines and hand stitching, using designs found in books, online and on whims. Each said quilting is like trying to solve a puzzle.
The group has nearly 100 years of quilting experience between them, and they keep photographs of each quilt they make. They also each sign their work, for their quilts are a labor of love.
“People need comfort,” said Lanzi.
“I like the idea of keeping everybody warm. That’s why I like to do it,” said Zanni. “We enjoy quilting.”
John Reis is a retired Lieutenant Commanding Officer with the Providence Police Department. He assists Children’s Friends, Rhode Island’s first child-serving nonprofit agency, which provides services for children and families in need. Reis works with the organization through a program called Project Connect. This year, the quilters donated 15 quilts to the organization.
“We deal with substance abuse affected families that are referred to us by DCYF [Department of Children, Youth, and Families] that have families with infants all the way up to 18 years old,” said Reis. “I’ll talk with the other case workers in our program and other people in the agency, and whoever has the need we’ll fill it with the quilt.”
Reis said that during this time of year, warmth is especially important for the people that he assists. Many served by the Project Connect program cannot afford heating bills, so having a proper comforter goes a long way. He said he connected with Lanzi back in 1993 and that the pair had worked together since he was on the police force with the Youth Services Bureau. Together, they gave gifts to kids in need and continue to give today.
“We gave these quilts to teen girls last year and they absolutely loved them. Kids know that when something is handmade it’s special, and that’s a whole lot different than giving something in a box,” said Reis, who hoped that the quilt’s recipients take something away from the group’s efforts and give back when they get on their feet.
The Giving Quilt Group is always looking for new members or those who would like to offer assistance, and those interested are asked to contact the Senior Center. Whoever gets this year’s quilts, the group has a simple message for them.
“Merry Christmas, and we hope you stay warm,” said Lanzi.