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Club Creates Quilts for Crime Victims posted: 9/29/2004
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Category: General Method: All Series: In The News
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Club creates quilts for crime victims
By Joan T. Anderson, Journal correspondent

Quilters, from left, Linda Feikema, Natalie Brummel, Helen Kooima and Sioux County Victim/Witness coordinator Marla McGill. They display quilts available for presentation to crime victims. There are about 35 members in the group. (Photo by Joan T. Anderson)

Monday, March 12, 2004

Reprinted by Permission of the Sioux City Journal and Joan T. Anderson

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- They quilted for the love of it. Then it became a mission.

Founded in the early 1980s, Sioux Prairie Quilters is a group of some 35 women who have a passion for quilting. Over time, that passion was coupled with compassion -- compassion for victims of violent crimes.

In 1991, the quilters learned that a child had been killed by a baby-sitter. Their hearts went out to the family. Hoping to provide some comfort, they gave a quilt.

That was only the beginning. Since that time, the number of quilts given to crime victims has climbed to as many as 40 per year, reported Helen Kooima and Natalie Brummel, charter members of the club.

Today the Sioux County Attorney's Office has a supply of quilts ready to be presented to those who have been traumatized by a crime. Marla McGill, Sioux County Victim/Witness Coordinator, gives them out when she meets with the crime victims. She keeps a log of quilts given and the type of victim that receives each quilt. The list is sobering:

-- A 26-year-old female victim of domestic abuse.

-- A 12-year-old male victimized by his father in a child endangerment case.

-- A 5-year-old female victim of sexual abuse by a neighbor.

-- A 17-year-old victim of a sexual assault by a counselor.

-- A 5-year-old male victim of sexual abuse by a baby-sitter.

-- A female victim of domestic abuse whose 10-year-old daughter was repeatedly raped by her father.

-- A 6-year-old victim of a drunk driver.

While the quilters do not meet the victims themselves, they do receive thank you notes. And they have stories to tell. Brummel remembers the case of a little boy who was sexually abused.

"He had to tell his story," she recalled, "and to have to relive that was so difficult. Then he was given the quilt, and he used it as a shield. Then he could tell his story, behind the blanket. And every once in a while he would peek around the blanket to see if they were still there listening. It was the security he needed to be able to share, because it was so difficult for him to look people in the eye."

Another story concerns a rape victim "who came into the office very hardened," Brummel said, "like, 'I don't need this; I can handle it.'"

She was presented with the various options open to her as a victim, and then she was given a quilt.

"Then she just broke down and cried," Brummelsaid said. "All of her emotions were released, and that was such a healthy thing for her. The office personnel said she came out of that session a different person, because of the quilt."

It is such stories that keep the quilters going.

Meeting twice a month, club members often work on a quilt as a group. How many quilts do they make in a year? According to Kooima, it's no big deal for one person to make five.

"These are not all bed-size quilts, we call them cuddle quilts," she said.

Where does the fabric come from for all of these quilts?

"A lot comes from our own scrap piles and sometimes we get donations from stores," Brummel said.

But Linda Feikema, a 10-year veteran of the club, found a very special supply when her sister passed away a year ago January.

"I went through her scrap pile and pulled out scraps and I made quilts for victims," she said. "And that really hit home for me; I know she would appreciate the fact that her fabrics were going to make quilts for victims of crime. Because she had foster children, and she was the sort of person that would have helped these people."

"Our club really grows from the experience of giving these quilts away," Feikema said, "even though we don't know to whom they go."

Kooima added, "You know, when you make a quilt it becomes part of you. Sometimes they are hard to give up, and yet we know that they are going to somebody needy, and that makes it all worthwhile."

Each quilt presented is accompanied by a card with a message that says, in part, "This quilt was created with love, to be shared with you like a hug. May it comfort you always and remind you that we care."

National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 18-24

As the Victim/Witness Coordinator for Sioux County, Marla McGill is the contact person for victims of crime. She observes firsthand the trauma they experience. And she observes firsthand the comfort that a quilt provides when given to a victim.

"A lot of times they will just grab it and hold on to it while I am talking to them during the visit," she said.

Often in the case of criminal acts, there is much emphasis on allowing the perpetrator his or her rights as prescribed by law. McGill wants to see that victims are given their rights, as well. That's why she is working to publicize National Crime Victims' Rights Week in Sioux County. Brochures will be placed in restaurants and other public places, inviting those who are victims to seek assistance through the county's Victim Assistance Program.

Reprinted by Permission of the Sioux City Journal and Joan T. Anderson

2004 Joan T. Anderson

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