ITHACA, N.Y.—A months-long effort to organize and sew dozens of quilts for those in need culminated Tuesday, as 63 quilts were presented to a room full of quiltmakers and onlookers. The quilts are being sent to the Alcohol and Drug Council’s new Open Access Detox and Stabilization Center, and will be placed on each bed in the facility for people undergoing treatment.
The sentiment of covering every bed in the new facility “with the warmth and beauty of a quilt created with love and care by a community member” fueled the quilters, organized by members of the Community Quiltmaking Center. The effort was coined “40 Quilts for 40 Beds” and was led by Brigid Hubberman with materials donated by Peggy Dunlop, one of the founders of the Community Quiltmaking Center.
The quilts were presented during an event at Kendal at Ithaca Tuesday evening celebrating the quiltmakers and officially dedicating the quilts to the center. In total, there were 63 quilts displayed, made by 65 quiltmakers, most of whom are local (and listed at the bottom of this article). While the initial goal was 40 quilts to cover the 40 beds in the detox center, the community’s enthusiasm produced far more than was anticipated.
Tuesday night’s event featured the parading of each of the quilts across a stage to applause, with some of the quiltmakers coming to the front and addressing the audience about their inspiration, the design and materials, or simply waxing poetic about their love of quilting.
State Assemblymember Anna Kelles, Tompkins County Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health Services Harmony Ayers-Friedlander and the Alcohol and Drug Council’s director of marketing and development, Emily Parker, were among several speakers who commended the effort and emphasized the importance of supporting people struggling with addiction.
“I can’t imagine a more beautiful symbol of connection than these gorgeous quilts, made by giant-hearted, generous, caring women,” Parker said. The detox and stabilization center has struggled to fill out its workforce as it ramped up to launch earlier this year, but is currently partially open for patients.
Ayers-Friedlander added that the quilts would help those struggling with addiction to know “your community sees you as a person,” in line with the event’s overall goal of reducing stigma around addiction and seeking treatment.
Others shared emotional and personal stories about their connections to addiction. One woman named Dorothy stitched a quilt depicting the sun at dawn, which she said represented her brother’s 30 years of sobriety. The quilt is currently hanging in the History Center in Tompkins County Exhibit Hall as part of its Knot Sew Fast: Patchwork of Tompkins County exhibit.
Ithaca Youth Bureau Executive Director Liz Klohmann had a particularly close connection to two of the quilts. In front of the audience, Klohmann disclosed that her son died from a fentanyl overdose in 2022. Before his death, her son had gathered a sizable amount of thread for a creative endeavor but died before he was able to put it to use. Instead, Klohmann said the thread had been used in two of the quilts that were presented Tuesday.
Quilters of all skill levels volunteered to put their stitching talents to work, including Pat Costantini. Like most others who assisted in the effort, Costantini has relatives who were impacted by substance use issues.
But Costantini said her passion for quilting was enough to get her involved.
“I love to quilt, it’s my therapy,” Costantini said. “I’m happy to be part of it, to be able to contribute.”
She has been involved in similar efforts before, and has donated some of her work to the Quilts for Valor Foundation, a non-profit that donates quilts and blankets to veterans. Her daughter-in-law organized an effort to make Christmas stockings for troops overseas when Costantini’s son was stationed in Afghanistan during the holidays, in which Costantini also participated.
Nora Burrows, another quilter, was looking for an outlet for her love of quilting, which like Costantini, pushed her to get involved. She said her quilt took months to finish, but she “loves every second of it.”
“The idea of being comforted and being in an environment that may be scary and wanting to feel some sense of calm,” Burrows said. “Quilts are, traditionally, that feeling of calm. I wanted to be a part of that.”
The below pictures were provided by NYS Assemblymember Anna Kelles.
Leisa Morris White moved to the area from Australia and said quilting had been a central way for her to make new friends in her new surroundings.
“My favorite thing to make is a community quilt,” White said. “When people join together and make things happen, it’s amazing. It brings people together and you get to know people, you really bond and make friends.”
She continued that she hopes the quilts are useful for decades to come as a source of warmth and comfort.
“I just hope [the quilt] lasts longer than me,” White said. “If when I’m gone someday, someone else is wrapped up in it, that would make me very happy.”
Participating quilters include: Kelly Behan, Mary Berry, Anna Bostwick, Bridget Bower, Nora Burrows, Kathy Carman, Casey Carr, Pat Costantini, Mary Oltz, Joanne Carruthers, Chris Decker, Reenie Kirby, Cindy Parlett, Bonnie Rathbun, Margie Van Der Mark, Dottie Duane, Sarah and Sky Feldt, Francesca Garrison, Maria Gasser, Joan Geiszler, Kathy Halton, Irene Komor, Dorothy Lynch, Pat Miller, Cheryl Moore, Ginger McAuley, Shari Parks, Allison Pritts, Dorothy Porri, Sue Reid, Munna Rubaii, Nora Rucker, Pixie Saberg, Pat Sawyer, Maura Cody, Sarah Bassman, Jill and Lexi van Leuken, Kristina King, Kathy Domkoski, Cyndi Slothower, Sheri Steurer, Carolyn Sutfin, Lisa Turner, Maureen Trowbridge, Deb Watrous, Erica Weiss, Ann Williamson, Marcie Wyant, Leisa White, Heather Scott, Laura Nelkin, Stephaney Powell, Christina King, Alexis Abramo, Deena Freed, Maria Arnold, Maura Cody, Liddy Coyle, Melissa Brewer, Tisa Hill.
Community Collaborators include: Community Quiltymaking Center, Finger Lakes ReUse MegaCenter, Quilters Corner, Tompkins County Quilters Guild, Danby Quilters, FLAIR, Morris Textiles Liberty Fabrics, Alli’s Longarm Quilting Services – Allison Pritts, Log Cabin Longarm Quilting – Dottie Doane, Kristin Thompson.