Quilts of hope

Published 9:53 pm Saturday, March 24, 2012

From left, Erica Robertson with Marketing Monster, Judy Pendley of Nancy’s Calico Patch, Stacey Kyser with Marketing Monster, owner Nancy Gloss of Nancy’s Calico Patch, Karen Smith of Marketing Monster and Rose West with Sentara Healthcare show off two of the quilts pieced together from messages written at Homearama in Suffolk last year.

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of stories leading up to the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life on May 18-19.

More than 70 volunteers spent an entire week quilting together messages of love, hope, beauty and encouragement last week.

The quilters helped piece together more than 800 notes written on fabric by visitors to the Tidewater Builders Association’s Homearama in Suffolk last year. The opportunity was available at the Get Pink with Sentara Breast Cancer Awareness House.

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The work was completed this week at Nancy’s Calico Patch in Newport News. The project resonated with owner Nancy Gloss, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just a few weeks after the Homearama event.

Carol Vieira, a 14-year breast cancer survivor, shows off the quilt she pieced together from messages of hope and encouragement written by visitors to Homearama in Suffolk last year.

“I’ve been in business 25 years, and this is the most personal quilting has been for me,” she said at a thank-you event for volunteers on Saturday.

Gloss had thrown her support behind the project long before she knew she had cancer. “It’s a good cause,” she said. “The quilting industry supports breast cancer, because it’s a women’s industry. It was an easy charity to pick and also one that has touched a lot of people.”

But she did not know it would touch her personally until a few weeks after Homearama ended, when she went for her regular mammogram. A week later, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She had a mastectomy in January and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, her staff, customers, old friends and new friends have rallied around her, she said.

It was a similar experience for Carol Vieira when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago. New to the area, she wanted to find a way to give back, so she volunteered to help quilt the squares together.

“It was a joy,” she said. “Pure joy, just to give someone else some comfort.”

A total of 21 quilts were created from the handwritten messages. They will be given to Sentara to hang in its cancer treatment centers and to use for awareness events.

“Everybody can use something that’s uplifting,” said Rose West, a spokeswoman for Sentara who attended Saturday’s event.

Many of the notes are universal messages of encouragement and hope, such as “Stay strong,” “Always have faith” and “Love and lemonade.” Some are more personal, with the writer telling her own story — “Survivor of 19 years” — or writing a note to a friend battling the disease.

They are surrounded by rectangles in shades of pink and prints that are mostly pink, the universal color of breast cancer awareness.

Gloss said the project was truly a community effort.

“Even people who didn’t quilt can be a part of it,” she said. “They could sign it, they could iron it, they could cut.”

“We had lots and lots of great participation this week,” agreed Judy Pendley, an employee at Nancy’s Calico Patch. “(The volunteers) came to work.”

Also raising awareness of cancer and support for survivors, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will be held in Suffolk on May 18-19 at Bennett’s Creek Park. For more information, visit www.suffolkrockinrelay.org.