Patchwork and Partnerships

Quilting is an art that richly permeates world history.

My understanding is that the earliest depiction of quilts was found in the art of the Egyptian Pharaohs. One of the oldest pieces of fabric found dates back to 200A.D.

More recently history tells us that quilts were an important artifact of Europe’s medieval period. During this time, quilted garments such as the gambeson served as padding under armor or as the armor itself, protecting warriors in battle.

Today, many people think of quilting as a uniquely American tradition. In some ways, it is. There are myriad, rich tales of the friendship and comfort, necessity and loss that surrounded the quilting circles of the Pioneer Women. Quilting remains a treasured past time. Women still gather in sisterhood and solidarity to make quilts. Sometimes, quilts are made to keep the family warm and protected. Sometimes they are made for charitable causes. And sometimes, they are made just for enjoyment.

In this difficult economic time, nonprofits find themselves using ‘patchwork’ funding. This system involves piecing together small parcels of money from a variety of sources in order to be able to offer a much needed but underfunded service to the community—much like the pieces of a patchwork quilt are made from leftover scraps of fabric.

Having employed this strategy for a very long time, I can tell you that the process can be grueling, including an exhausting chase for money, complicated recordkeeping and the task of sustaining a great deal of hope and positive thinking under less than positive circumstances. However rewarding the end result may be, it can be pretty stressful. In my struggle to remain hopeful, I looked to the tradition of quilting. I am happy to share my findings with you.

Quilts are protective. Whether you are keeping your loved ones warm or shielding those who are fighting the good fight, a quilt stitched with passion and purpose prevents harm. Strong partnerships can create programs that serve the greater good, offer safety nets to those on the edge and provide critical services to those currently in need.

Patchwork quilts are cost effective. Patchwork quilts use leftover pieces of fabric, put together in unique and creative ways. Sometimes, there are patterns to follow. Sometimes, you have to create your own. If your organization brings some funding scraps an hope, and I bring some frayed resources and hope, we can piece together something inspired, efficient and effective.

And finally, beautiful patchwork quilts are made through partnerships. And so are beautiful programs. Moreover, like quilting circles, the process of partnering offers support to all of us.

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