Since July, I have had the pleasure of volunteering with some of the wonderful senior citizens at The Prospect Hill Senior Center in Brooklyn, New York. I have always been around senior citizens, from the time I was a young child. My parents and grandparents were part of The Elks Lodge, and we went camping monthly with The Roving Elks, a motorhome group of mostly seniors. I was always very close to all four of my grandparents, and after losing my last grandpa at the beginning of this year, I have really felt the gap in my life and my heart, where the seniors are missing. Probably because of my close relationships with my grandparents, I love seniors, and have been searching for an opportunity to work with them for years. After a guest storytelling opportunity given to me by my good friend, professional storyteller and actress, Cyndi Freeman, I was hooked, and began brainstorming ways to get more involved with the wonderful people I had met. Cyndi felt the same way, and was excited to continue working with these seniors she had built relationships with.
In July, 2015, we (Cyndi and I) sat down with Crystal and Carla at Prospect Hill Senior Center, for a programming meeting, and decided that a quilting class would be a great way to go. We had to emphasize that we were interested in volunteering, and we made a small budget, and began thinking of other ways to get supplies we needed.
Now, I am a costume designer by trade, and a costume instructor at a private school in Brooklyn, so teaching sewing comes very easily, but quilting is a skill that I learned from my mother. My mom Gayle Scott, is an avid quilter and artist. She has been making quilts of all kinds for over 15 years now, and participates actively in the Quilting Guild in her city, Redding, California.
Over the years, I have learned many different techniques and tricks about quilting from my mom. I’ve taken workshops with her, learned through practice while sewing on visits home to Redding, California, and I’ve spent hours with her quilting friends sewing at the community center Thursday sewing group. I would consider myself a novice quilter and an expert seamstress. I tend to enjoy the design process and the act of putting things together over the tedium of cutting pieces perfectly, or doing intricate handwork like applique’. My mom has done it all, and so have most of her friends. They are a talented bunch, and they are a joyful, and generous group of ladies.
I suppose it should have come as no surprise that when Cyndi and I were approved for this quilting class, the ladies of the Redding Thursday Group jumped at the opportunity to clean out their fabric scraps, and donated all of the fabric to get our class started. Not only did they donate the fabric, but they cut all the fabric into 4″ squares for us. Thousands of 4″ squares were then packed into priority mail packages along with some fabric yardage to back quilts, and all was mailed directly to me for use in our projects. Mom and I made a plan of ways to make quilts with beginners, and through her experience, we designed accessible projects that would help everyone learn the basics, and help them feel like they had the opportunity to design. We also made a plan to have layout boards for those who may not be able to sew, but wanted to participate. I cannot express the gratitude I have for those women’s generosity, and for their enthusiasm about this project. I know that they are still ready to send a whole new batch of fabric whenever we are ready for more. Truly, the program could not have happened without them, and it has kept us going now for months. We have finished four quilts, and tens of other small projects like tote bags, pillows, pin cushions, and pot holders- all made from the squares they sent.
We are still going strong over at Prospect Hill, and will finish this time with them at the end of December. We hope to move to another center in the new year through June, possibly with funding from BAC in a special grant for senior arts programs. We truly look forward to meeting new seniors and working with some of our new friends from PHSS who recommended this new space to us. We will always have a love for that center, and hope to return there with more programming as well.
I am so grateful to my mother for teaching me the basic quilting skills I have, for being the doer that she is, and for organizing and helping me plan this course from afar. Her creativity and generosity is unparalleled, and I am so lucky and thankful for her in my life. Soon, California will connect directly with New York, and mom will be a guest in our quilting class in Brooklyn, on her visit in the new year.
Here is a video of the seniors having fun, and chatting about class- you can see by the smiles on their faces, that they are as happy as we are to be quilting together.
The bottom line is this: volunteering is good for your soul. I feel connected to senior citizens, but maybe you feel connected to children, or animals, the homeless, or the sick. The point is, it feels good to give back to the community, and it feels even better if you can share something you love with others, without stress, without pretense, and without any reason other than to create for the joy of it. I highly recommend it.