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Pine River Valley seniors express pandemic resilience through quilt work

Thrive in Place COVID-19 textile art project took two years to complete
Thirteen Pine River Valley women contributed panels for a quilt reflecting their feelings and experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The quilt took two years to complete. (Courtesy of Paul Boyer)

A “Together We Thrive” collaborative quilt representing personal feelings and experiences about the COVID-19 pandemic will be on display at the Pine River Senior Center in Bayfield from Feb. 7 through March 17.

The quilt’s creation was a joint effort between 13 Pine River Valley women, who began working on the quilt’s individual patches in 2021. The idea of the quilt was conceived by the Thrive in Place project, an initiative being pursued by Bayfield nonprofit Pine River Shares. Pine River Shares spokeswoman, Jules Masterjohn, said TIP was the result of two different meetings involving Pine River Valley senior citizens and their specific needs in the community.

“Back in 2019, there were two meetings held by Pine River Shares, one at the Bayfield Senior Center, and the other one down in Arboles,” Masterjohn said. “At the North Valley meeting and South Valley meeting, seniors were asked, ‘What do you need? What are you lacking? What kinds of services and what kinds of resources do you need?’ One of the things that came out of that was a need for a group that could be supportive of each other and share resources.”

Not long after the meetings, Thrive in Place was formed, providing peer support and resources for Pine River Valley’s senior population who are “aging in place,” according to Masterjohn.

“One of the reasons TIP was formed is because of our isolation out here,” Masterjohn said. “We have more and more seniors who are living at home. So, they're aging in place versus going to nursing homes or things like that, and we’re trying to support those individuals who have chosen to age in place or have to stay where they are because of financial reasons.”

Not long after TIP’s formation, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred and lockdowns were mandated around the country. Many in the senior community in the more rural areas of Pine River Valley became more isolated than ever and lost those connections they had been forming through the senior center and Thrive in Place. That was when those running TIP decided to there was a way to keep the senior community connected: building something together.

“When COVID hit in 2020, the quilt project was born,” Masterjohn said. “It was an opportunity for socializing and being in the community.”

Beginning in 2021, TIP advocates began distributing fabric squares and art supplies to those who wanted to participate. The assignment was to express a positive way of coping with the stress, isolation and uncertainty that came with living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bayfield textile artist Corrine Nichols provided technical support and guidance to participants through the project. She also sewed the individual squares together along with Kathleen Reilly. Local quilter Kim Goodwin also applied the final touches to the quilt and put the rest of the quilt together, according the Pine River Shares news release.

Funding for the TIP quilting project came from a grant provided by the NextFifty Initiative, a Colorado-based private foundation dedicated to funding mission-driven initiatives that improve the lives of the older adult population and their caregivers, according to its website.

The final images on the quilt are ones of resiliency, honesty and hope, themes TIP advocates hope connect to the larger local community.

“This was an opportunity for Pine River Valley seniors to have some connection to each other,” Masterjohn said. “We’ve had Walk and Talks and Chair Yoga for our seniors. Opportunities for socializing and exercising and just being in the community. That’s been the purpose of Thrive in Place: to bring people together.”


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