Southwest Solutions’ Stitches of Love creates blankets for families in need, knits together the community

Southwest Solutions’ Stitches of Love creates blankets for families in need, knits together the community
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It has been said a quilt will warm your body and comfort your soul.

It takes 54 squares to make one blanket. No two squares are alike.
Photo by Norinheli Rick

That’s why some of the women in Southwest Solutions’ sewing class in southwest Detroit and women (and five men) got together to make quilts for those less fortunate. The program is called “Stitches of Love.”

They began crocheting the 8-by-8 inch squares right after Day of the Dead on Oct. 31. The squares would be assembled into 72 in. by 48 in. blankets that will keep someone warm this winter.

Fifty people worked on the project. While many live in southwest Detroit, others came from English Village, Jefferson Chalmers, North End, Royal Oak, Livonia, Warren and Grosse Pointe. Some donated their time while others, like Knotted Needle in Grosse Pointe, donated yarn. The workers at Stepping Out Hair & Nail Salon in Oak Park donated a blanket they made. Others helped stitch the squares into blankets.

Nasheshia Pasco, a Southwest Solutions’ affordable housing tenant who is also getting her GED at the Adult Learning Lab, with two of her children and Felecia Bennett-Clark, of Southwest Solutions (left), who made squares for the blanket given to Nasheshia.

Crocheting enough squares to make a blanket is no small feat. It takes 54 to make each quilt. They made 1,000 squares, each one different, enough for 18 blankets, and even had a few squares left over. They’ll be a start for next year.

“We want to do even more next year,” says Mayté Penman, director of resident engagement at Vista Partnership, an initiative of Southwest Solutions. She also crocheted squares.

More blankets were donated by students at the Forsythe Middle School in southwest Detroit and some stores also took up the cause. Thanks to those donations Stitches Of Love was able to distribute a total of 80 blankets to families. Southwest Solutions Housing Resource Center helped find the families.

In addition, the team distributed 300 coats donated by the Grosse Point Rotary Club.

“(Stitches of Love) helped bring people together to bond and share,” says Paige Moses, who works with Penman at Vista Partnership.

The team didn’t just hand over the blankets to the families. They wanted it to be special. It was.

Rev.  Joan C. Ross, director for the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) and acting station manager at WNUC-lp 96.7 FM Detroit Community Radio, offered a blessing and she shared her poignant story.

Yovis Gallegos and daughter, who has cerebral palsy, with the blanket made for them.

When she was a little girl she learned to sew to make blankets to help keep her family warm. You see, they didn’t have heat in their home.

“She made it personal,” says Divine Smith, who also works with Penman. “She told us how she wanted to pass the love along to her family and now share the love from community to community.”

That’s exactly what Stiches of Love has done.

“She told us how she put love and prayers in every stitch,” says Moses. “We have a similar feeling. That’s why we made the quilts … to pass on the love.”

The project was part of Southwest Solutions’ sewing class, which now includes learning to crochet. The free class is offered in English and Spanish. When the course ends these new seamstresses will be able to operate a sewing machine, cut and follow patterns, install zippers, do basic alterations, make clothes for themselves and their families and more. These are valuable skills for families trying to save money.

“They really want to learn,” says Penman. “It is good to have a village behind you when you are going through tough times.”

By helping make the blankets they “are paying forward what they learn,” she says.

The blankets they helped make not only warmed the bodies of many, they comforted the souls of even more.

All this makes for a “very powerful blanket,” says Moses.

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