BY AMANDA MOSES
Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) VIII is service-learning school that tries to incorporate arts education with community outreach. Since 2010, FDA VIII’s quilting club has been making a difference in the community one stich at a time. Arts Chair, Barbara Gathers, created the quilting club because she believed it would instill math, writing, computer and craftsmanship skills, as well as volunteerism. Needle in hand and ready to help others, the students’ first project was to create sleeping bags for a homeless shelter.
“The students are learning the importance of caring for someone besides themselves,” said Gathers. “They are gaining a visceral insight into the lives of others, and given a tangible lesson on people’s experiences and the difference one person can make on someone’s life,” she added.
Since their first project in 2010, they have donated quilts, pillows and other materials for HIV patients at St. Mary’s hospital, baby blankets for Help USA, a homeless shelter that provides services for mothers, and just a few months ago, blankets for patients at the Spring Creek Rehabilitation Center.
When creating quilts, baby blankets or even clothes for others, the students first research the people who are receiving their project, so that it is customized to their unique needs. They also look at how their donation will brighten up a patient’s room, and learn about the different living situations others face. For example, in 2010 when they made sleeping bags for the homeless, the students learned that theft was an ongoing concern. So the students created hidden pockets to conceal money or important possessions.
“I really like the quilting club because it involves art, and we learn about different people and cultures,” Kandace Gilliam, 12, said. “We are not just giving away any quilt, we are making quilts with love. I never used to think about a blanket as something more than an object to sleep with, but for others it’s a form of security and comfort—that’s what we are doing. Giving love and hope to others,” Gilliam said.
Their latest project at the Spring Creek Rehabilitation Center was slightly different from the others because they left a portion of the quilt, the border, unfinished. In doing so, the students were able to sit down with many of the facility’s senior patients and show them how to sew.
“I had a perception of rehab centers as being sad, and overall a bad place for elders. But after my visit at the Spring Creek Rehabilitation Center, I really got to see what it’s like there. There are some patients who don’t have family, so it felt good to sit down with them and show them how to sew,” said 12-year-old Princess Richardson. “I think we also showed the patients that young people are not all loud and rude. This experience also made me think that I can carry on the lessons I’ve learned when I become a teacher someday,” she said proudly.
Each single-sized quilt was created by a group of four students, who made team decision on the colorful patterns, as well as complementary throw pillows. Richardson said that it was hard for her to choose a design at first, and with time constraints, the students had to work fast. “We worked together, and in the end we felt really good when we saw how happy our quilts made the patients,” Richardson said.
Gathers says that FDA VIII will be looking forward to working on more community service projects with the Spring Creek Rehabilitation Center in the near future.
Photos by: Amanda Moses & FDA VIII