Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

April 26, 2014

Seamless collaboration through Stitches of Kindness

INTERLOCHEN — Helmet? Check. Hatchet? Check. Quilt? Check.

Firefighters and EMTs roll with more than life-saving equipment; in Green Lake Township, they carry life-soothing equipment. Quilts, made by volunteers in the Stitches of Kindness program, ride along on fire engines and ambulances. They’re given for comfort, for caring and for keeps.

“We take them on all calls,” said Rebecca Pruyne, Green Lake Township’s medical director. “Whether it’s a medical call that leaves an elderly person feeling shaky and scared or something for a young child to grab onto in an accident, we take them with us.”

Stitches of Kindness quilts cover patients on North Flight EMS helicopters. Hospice volunteers lay them over shaky legs. They warm the homeless at Traverse City’s Goodwill Inn. Quilts differ from mass-produced, nameless blankets — their intricate handiwork provide a uniquely personal comfort, like a friend’s arm around the shoulders in life’s scariest moments, Pruyne said.

“It’s just wonderful when you can hand a quilt to someone and say, ‘This is from your community. We care about you.’”

The Stitches of Kindness program runs on love, so it’s no surprise that the end products convey it. Desire to create a “cover of love” is founder Lin Alessio’s sole requirement — the Interlochen businesswoman provides everything else, right down to the sewing machine and scrap bag. Alessio launched the program a few years ago in loving memory of her mother and husband, who passed away within nine months of each other.

“When you love someone, you have to pass it on,” Alessio said. Weaving in her mother’s skill and her husband’s community spirit, Alessio created a program that reinforces connections between people, seniors and children, wealthy and indigent, fortunate and unfortunate. Volunteers range from ages 4 to 94, and together, they’ve created more than 150 quilts.

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