Group uses passion for quilting to help local foster children

SUBMITTED PHOTO: ROBERT THOMPSON - The Wilsonville Piecemakers meet weekly to sew quilts that they donate to CASA of Clackamas County and other groups. They were recently thanked for their donations by CASA at a breakfast with coffee and rolls.The children with whom local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) work often enter the foster system with no belongings to speak of.

There are hundreds of such children in Clackamas County alone. And it’s with the goal of providing them with at least one valuable possession that a group of local quilters known as the Wilsonville Piecemakers have picked up their sewing needles — a pursuit for which CASA recently honored them.

Piecemaker Mindy Berquist says that she joined the Piecemakers as a way to put her quilting habit to good use.

“If you like doing it (quilting), what do you do with multiple quilts? You inundate your family,” she said.

The group is prolific, and provides some 50 quilts per year to CASA. Those 50 quilts are around a third of the amount produced by the Piecemakers for charities each year, with donations also going to groups like the Northwest Down Syndrome Association and Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, and to groups associated with Alzheimer’s and cancer treatment, among others.

The Piecemakers, who work entirely with donated materials, also make hats and knitted goods for groups in need. They make pillowcases for extended-stay patients at Meridian, and miniature quilts for babies as well.

“Every one of the 12 women who belong to this group provide such beautiful quilting,” Berquist says.

The Piecemakers have been donating to CASA of Clackamas County for years. The county CASA chapter has around 100 volunteers assigned to local foster children who have been removed from homes due to abuse or neglect. CASAs advocate for the child in court, and keep an eye on their charges as they move through the foster care system.

“Kids who have a CASA spend on average much less time in foster care than kids who don’t,” says Robin Christian, executive director of CASA of Clackamas County. She says that the handmade

quilts are important to the children.

“A lot of times, they are removed from their homes without any personal belongings, so it’s super-meaningful to them. It gives them something that they can take with them,” Christian says.

CASA keeps a stockpile of the quilts at their office, and CASAs are encouraged to choose one that suits their child’s personality. The Piecemakers are the only group to regularly donate quilts to the organization.

Christian became CASA’s executive director some six months ago, and when she learned about the work that the Piecemakers do, she wanted to thank them — which led to a thank-you breakfast at the Wilsonville Parks & Recreation administrative offices last month. The breakfast was also an opportunity for representatives of CASA to interact with the Piecemakers, giving them a more detailed look at the impact they’re having and allowing for discussion of the types of quilts that are especially popular.

“They were really interested in what they could do — how what they were doing could fit more with the kids in need,” Christian says.

Berquist says that CASA’s gesture was a meaningful one to the Piecemakers.

“We don’t always hear back from the people who receive our quilts,” Berquist says. “For our organization, that was huge.”

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