As many of us know, quilting can be so much more than just making pieces of art. In some cases a quilt can have a special meaning, purpose, or intent. This is the case with the quilt created by the joint efforts of Ithaca based groups, Quilting Divas and a chapter of Dining for Women (DFW). The quilt in question, Women Empowering Women, is a panel quilt that, when combined, represents some of the charities around the world that strive to help empower women and give them the tools to create better lived for themselves and their families. I was able to talk with the Ithaca Chapter leader, Miriam Bisk, and she explained more about this quilt and the people and organizations behind it.
About Dining For Women
Dining for Women is a grassroots organization that focuses on helping to empower women who live in impoverished and underprivileged communities. According to Miriam Bisk the organization believes that “Through educating themselves, DFW members become the agents of change. They gather together to alter the face of world poverty, support women, and stop sex trafficking.” Each month individual chapters gather together and share a potluck meal. They discuss different organizations and decide if they fit the criteria that DFW has for organizations that they support. In each organization they look to see and make sure that women and children are the beneficiaries of the organization, that it is a nonprofit, and that it is an organization separate from a government. Dining for Women members strive to help women because they believe that women will share the knowledge and skills that they gain to make a better community. At each meeting members donate what they can. Some give $5, some give more. The Dining for Women motto, according to Bisk, is “we dine in and we donate what we would have spent dining out”. Although Dining for Women chapters can be found throughout the United States the chapter in Ithaca, New York paired up with the local quilting group, Quilting Divas, to go above and beyond and create a quilt that would raise awareness to the organizations that DFW supports.
“Women Empowering Women”
This endeavor is unique to the Ithaca chapter, no other Dining for Women chapters have used quilting to get the word out, and according to Miriam Bisk it was only possible because “there are many fabric artists in our group”. The idea for this quilt was hatched by Miriam Bisk. After having a dream, Miriam approached a few quilters in her chapter with the idea of making a quilt that represented the core values of the Dining for Women organization. These two women, Sally Dutko and Mary Diamond, took this idea to their quilting group the “Quilting Divas”. The Quilting Divas embraced the idea and really made it their own. Miriam Bisk gave them a list of organizations DFW had supported over the past three years, and each Diva researched the list and picked an organization that spoke to her specifically. The Divas had a whole winter to create their individual panel and only shared their work the following spring. The end result is a stunning panel quilt that showcases nine different organizations that focus on women.
The Quilt Divas and their inspiration
The Quilt Divas who made the quilts each had their own reasons for making the quilt panel that they did. Kristen Thompson, an avid knitter, chose to depict Rwanda Knits (rwandaknits.org) an organization that provides Rwandan women with the ability to better their lives through knitting. Sally Dutko chose Bead for Life (beadforlife.org) as her inspiration. She chose it because the organization has made such an impact on Ugandan lives. Lorraine Benjamin, a dedicated mother and health care professional, felt a connection to Clinique Monique (womenstrust.org), an organization that helps expecting mothers in Mali, West Africa. Cheri Sheridan was inspired to create two panels. The first, Love146 (love146.org), is an organization dedicated to helping children who are sold into sex trade and based her quilt panel on the organization. The second panel by Cheri Sheridan was to honor the Heifer International (Heifer.org) and organization that gives livestock to families in need. Realizing that Dining for Women (diningforwomen.org) is an amazing organization, Donna Faivre – Roberts chose to create a quilt depicting the mission of DFW. Mary Diamond was touched by her visit to Kenya, and decided to showcase the BOMA Fund (bomafund.org) for all their work to bring new opportunities and education to women and children in the Maasai tribes. Elise Dentes, a dedicated gardener, decided to honor the One Acre Fund (oneacrefund.org) for helping teach people how to grow their own food, and giving them the means to start up their own farms. Ruth White, a “self-avowed tree hugger” was touched by the Maya Nut Institute (Mayanutinstitute.org), an organization that not only helps women in Mexico and Central America, but also is helping to protect an important tree.
Although the dedication of all these women is amazing, Miriam Bisk wanted to especially highlight the work of Ruth White. During the past year when the Quilt Divas were busily creating their individual panels, Ruth was fighting advanced appendix cancer (thankfully Ruth now considers herself a cancer survivor). Even though she was personally fighting for her life, White continued to be very involved with the creation and promotion of the Women Empowering Women quilt. Not only did she create a quilt panel, she also designed the post cards, brochure, and websites that showcase the work that the Quilting Divas and DFW Ithaca chapter did. Through her actions, Ruth lived up to the title of the quilt and became an inspiration to many.
How you can get involved
With a story this touching, it would be hard not to be inspired to use individual talents to help the community. There are many different ways that art can positively affect people’s lives. Miriam, when I asked her what she thought others could do to help, had a few great ideas.
If you would like to get more involved with Dining for Women you can visit their website to find a chapter near you, or if there is not a chapter in your area you can start your own! (www.diningforwomen.com).
If you are interested in working directly with an organization, don’t be shy about contacting them! Let them know what you have in mind and what your talents are. Chances are the organization that you contact will be open to new ideas and projects.
“Women Empowering Women” is being auctioned off on December 28, 2010. If you are interested in buying a raffle ticket, please email Miriam Bisk at Miriam.firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds of this raffle will go to Dining for Women and their continued efforts to improve the lives of women all over the world.