A Tight Knit Community
Members of the South East Edmonton Seniors Association Activity Centre are sowing the seeds of love, one quilt at a time
Tuesday, Aug 04, 2015 04:02 pm
When Iris Allen volunteered to sew a blanket for a woman living with schizophrenia, she never expected to hear anything more about it. She volunteered to put a blanket together and spent about 15 hours on the project, but when she delivered the blanket to the home the woman lives in, a news crew was on hand. Allen, a member of the South East Edmonton Seniors Association Activity Centre (SEESA) was surprised that a simple gift would be considered newsworthy. SEESA is a busy place with more than 1,300 members who participate in fitness classes, woodworking, quilting and crafts, computer courses, a drama club and more. Members come from across the city to spend time in the brightly lit, friendly Holyrood building that was once a school.
Maxine Stone and five gentlemen from the neighbourhood started SEESA in 1980. Although Stone was too young to become a member, she was instrumental in developing support and connecting people who later formed the first board of directors. Like Stone, many of the groups’ current members grew up in this neighbourhood, moved away as young adults and eventually returned. Their ties to the centre are strong and extend into the community.
Claire Kotun organizes many of the quilts that are made at SEESA and does much of the initial work at home. She is often given a bag of fabric and creates beautiful designs. She then brings the quilts to the centre where they are mounted on frames and sewn together by hand when the club meets on Mondays. The quilting and crafting club knitted hundreds of 8-inch blanket squares to donate to Blankets for Canada, a non-profit group that makes blankets for people in need. Other blankets have since been completed and will be donated to people in need throughout Edmonton. Betty Demers has made 178 quilts for the Ronald McDonald House. The club’s members say the quality of their friendship keeps them coming back. “It doesn’t matter that we’re all different, because everyone works together,” says Maureen Buckley, as several women work on a quilt behind her. Glenda Hawkins, who lost her husband last year, takes three buses to get to the centre twice a week. “Coming here has been my salvation because I get to meet with these lovely ladies,” she says.
Joyce Miller knits a lot. In fact, all the time; she recently finished a blanket for her cousin in Sarnia. He has Parkinson’s disease and knitting the blue and white blanket is a way for Miller to maintain her connection with him. While many blankets go out into the community, others are for sale at the centre. SEESA relies on donations and government grants to operate. Members raffle quilts and sell crafts to help finance the centre. They sell delicate baby’s clothes, kitchen linens, aprons, greeting cards, quilts and blankets. In the meantime, Jane Bannister is knitting blankets for sick kids at Grey Nun’s hospital. “I just like knitting,” she says, “and it is more enjoyable to be with other people.” Jane echoes what the other SEESA members feel: The centre is a place where seniors can connect with other people, learn things, and contribute to their community. That community is an important part of what draws people to SEESA, or what Stone calls “motivation to get out.” Even on days when she would rather stay home, Stone often goes to the centre to visit with her friends.
“You don’t want to slop around in slippers and a housecoat all day,” she says.