Warner Column July 19, 2009

Rotarians charitable in use of rotary cutter

As a quilter, I’ve long been acquainted with the indispensable rotary cutter. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned about another important rotary wheel — Rotary International.

Here’s their connection.

Quilters in general are cut from a generous cloth.

They stitch and donate their comforting results to countless beneficiaries — wounded soldiers, cancer patients, sick and abused children. The list never ends.

Quilting for charities is a global endeavor, and I recently was reminded of its universal appeal while attending the Rotary International convention in Birmingham, England.

As the spouse of the newly installed president of the Grand Junction Rotary Club, I had the pleasure of accompanying my husband, Joe, on this overseas trip.

We were among more than 20,000 people from all over the world who participated in the weeklong event. One of the first things I discovered inside the huge European convention hall was an exhibit of quilts under a banner that read “Rotarian Fellowship of Quilters and Fiber Artists.”

The quilts were selling for $100 each, with the proceeds going to a polio eradication program that every Rotary service club supports.

First established in 1905, Rotary now has more than 1.2 million members who promote a humanitarian spirit through community and international projects.

The quilters and fiber artists fellowship is one of about 90 global networking groups under the Rotary umbrella for those who share the same interests or vocations. For example, other booths featured Rotary musicians and Rotary mountain skiers.

Part of the quilters fellowship goal is to promote an appreciation of quilts and fiber arts in all cultures.

Chairman Diana Barden of Madera, Calif., says the group was formed in 2003 and now has a membership of 140 from 12 countries: Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Iceland, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Ukraine, Uganda and the United States.

In Birmingham, the fellowship raised $1,500 through the sale of quilts, knitted afghans, aprons and totes, and a Lopi wool collar from Iceland.

Barden says members not only quilt, but also knit, crochet, needlepoint, embroider, make dolls and, in general, love the fabric arts.

“Throughout the year, they exchange ideas, tips on their crafts, history and personal stories,” Barden says.

Communication is facilitated through http://www.rotaryquilts.org.

Members often initiate projects in their home districts to raise money for various Rotary projects, she says. Funds have been given to hurricane and tsunami victims, for example.

A Rotary group in Maine started a project called Wrap-a-Smile, collecting quilts from all over the world, labeling them and distributing them to Rotaplast missions. Rotaplast provides free reconstructive surgery and treatment for those with cleft palate and other facial anomalies in developing countries.

Each youngster coming out of surgery is wrapped in one of the donated quilts.

Tsunami victims received $500 from a collaborative quilting project in 2005, when the fellowship donated blocks that were assembled and quilted by vice president and founder Phyllis Giersch of Madera. The resulting quilt raised money at the centennial convention in Chicago that year.

In 2008, two large quilts of “Rotary Stars” were part of a silent auction at the Los Angeles convention. Between the quilts and Rotary-themed afghans made by knitters and crocheters, $3,000 was raised for the fight against polio.

Another Rotarian spouse, Mary Fae Kamm, invited the fellowship to exhibit at the International Museum of Cultures in Dallas, where she is director.

Consequently, fellowship member and artist Hiltburg Wussow of Germany showed several of her quilts in the exhibit titled “We’re Covering the World.” One of the quilts, “Black Forest
During Harvest,” was offered for auction, and it brought $1,000. Once again, the money went to the campaign against polio.

Next on the agenda for the Rotarian Fellowship of Quilters and Fiber Artists is the 2010 international convention in Montreal. Barden says they are excited about making another quilt project for the Canadian event.

I find it inspiring that quilters all over the world have such a connection to a symbolic wheel, whether it’s the emblem of a service club or the universal tool called the rotary cutter.

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