Quilters binding a quilt and volunteering for the Wildfires Project in the Smithers House at the Vanderhoof Museum. Photo Fiona Maureen

Quilts of love and support for those affected by B.C. wildfires

B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts, a volunteer project started in Vanderhoof, is making an impact across the province and reaching those who need it most.

The B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts Project is a volunteer group that has come together to provide assistance through the provision of quilts, to those affected by the wildfires of British Columbia. The group is gathering a coordinated response of collection and distribution of quilts as an outpouring of support.

This group has created an efficient way for many smaller groups and individuals, to work together towards a common goal:

“To wrap those affected by the B.C. Wildfires in comfort and caring as they heal and rebuild.”

The B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts Project group is hoping to unite generous quilters, facilitating a thoughtful, measured, and effective process.

While some may be focusing on a specific area or need, which we also did at the outset looking first to Ashcroft and Boston Flats, the scope was very quickly broadened to reflect the massive scale and reach of this summer’s fire season.

The group were inspired to take action as they felt it was “important to put in place a plan that would ensure equitable and all encompassing distribution of quilts”.

BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project has been in communication with organizers and participants of previous similar events and they have learned of some of the challenges facing communities overwhelmed from uncoordinated responses.

“Donations and distribution can be complex and sometimes a little chaotic for communities who are rebuilding. We would like to avoid adding to the stress of this situation.”

To this end, the B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts Project is working with the District of Vanderhoof and the Vanderhoof Volunteer Fire Department who are now on board and willing to assist the group in seeking potential funding opportunities, providing letters of support or whatever else may be needed.

“Vanderhoof’s motto, “the Heart of BC”, is taking on new meaning with the B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts Project’s initiative,” says Mayor Gerry Thiessen. “Vanderhoof has a long history associated with quilting and it is only fitting that our community is at the “Heart” of this initiative to provide quilts made with love to those who are rebuilding from losses due to wildfires.”

“This event is unlike others. Unlike previous events, many communities are impacted this time rather than one. They fall under multiple and different governmental structures. For that reason, we feel that liaising with the “boots on the ground” through local fire departments (who will determine appropriate timing) is the best method of distribution. We believe this distribution process will capitalize on local knowledge and community connections. This is the heart of it all,” says project coordinator Monica Rach.

We have a First Nations Liaison in Gladys Michell. Gladys, a member of Saik’uz and the Stellat’en First Nation, is an avid quilter herself. She is connecting directly with the Chiefs of First Nations communities to ensure their needs are met. “I am the granddaughter of the late Dr. Mary John. She was a strong advocate of providing comfort to her community and surrounding communities in time of need. I am happy and proud to be apart of this project that will help so many people that been affected by the loss of so much,” says Gladys Mitchell.

B.C. Wildfires Community Quilts project believes personal connections and local knowledge will ensure no one is left behind. It also allows other groups like ESS and Red Cross to continue working in their areas of expertise to assist in the rebuilding of communities through their mandated activities. This way they can ensure the quilts are distributed and received with care and without causing extra burden to individual communities and other aid agencies.

Each quilt donated is being archived and catalogued photographically, including information on the maker(s) and originating towns to leave a lasting legacy of the amazing generosity of those who are participating in this effort.

The reality is that many communities are not yet ready for quilts. Officials and communities as a whole are still very active in saving areas; many people remain displaced with no home and the inability to return to where their homes once stood. Sadly, some will continue to be evacuated for possibly weeks to come. Unfortunately, we are just at the beginning of this fire season and the numbers of losses may rise.

“We collectively welcome everyone to join in our continued, ongoing and growing effort.”

Facebook: BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project &BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project Sewing Group bcwildfiresquiltsproject@gmail.com

– submitted


Wildfires Quilt Project catalogued quilt #1, 67 by 74 inches, Nechako Quilters Guild (Vanderhoof), Longarming: Becki Larsen. Photo BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project Sewing Group

Nechako Quilter’s Guild making quilts for wildfire losses… They have completed over 20 quilts so far, with another 15 - 20 partially completed quilts underway! Photo Vanderhoof Quilter’s Guild

Wildfires Quilt Project catalogued quilt #3, 71 by 55 inches, Norma Stent (Fort St. James). Photo BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project Sewing Group

Wildfires Quilt Project catalogued quilt #13, 95 by 82 inches, Helen Wiebe (Vanderhoof). Photo BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project Sewing Group

Wildfires Quilt Project catalogued quilt #54, 58 by 60 inches, Nechako Quilters Guild (Vanderhoof) Photo BC Wildfires Community Quilts Project Sewing Group