Strangers become friends through Alzheimer’s Association project
By Eileen Persike
The fabric of any community is its citizens; a patchwork of dreamers, doers, volunteers and organizers. It seems that in a small town, those traits can once in awhile combine to create something special.
Such was the case in Rhinelander last month.
Judy Durkee Peter, the first outreach specialist hired to staff the first Alzheimer’s Association office in the Northwoods in 1995, came across six panels of fabric to be embroidered with butterflies when she was going through her mother’s things after her death. Judy’s step-dad had Alzheimer’s and her mother was his caregiver.
Together with Joanne Dart, Peter’s good friend, the pair hatched a plan. Dart would embroider butterflies on the panels and they would use them to make a quilt, just as Peter’s mom had intended, but would instead donate it as an auction item at the annual Memories and Melodies Alzheimer’s Association benefit April 22.
“I said, we have to get it done for the Memories and Melodies banquet,” Dart said.
“So we could donate it, so they could raise more money,” Peter added.
“So we were kind of working like crazy to get it finished before the banquet.” Dart concluded.
“When people shop local, they’re supporting the businesses that turn around and invest back into our community. That’s pretty priceless.” – Julie St. Pierre
Peter then brought the quilt to Josh and Christy Hipke, owners of the downtown Rhinelander shop, Sew Creative, for the finishing touches – the actual quilting. It was a job the Hipkes said was difficult for them to do on their machine, so they put them in touch with quilter Susan Bolte, who lives in Parrish.
“When I looked at it, it reminded me of a vintage linen, so I thought it should have heirloom quilting done on it,” Bolte said. “I love to quilt feathers, I added some feather work.”
Bolte was heading out of town, so she brought her sewing machine and the project along, because Peter and Dart needed it back the next week.
“It wasn’t my usual quilting machine but I can quilt on a regular sewing machine,” said Bolte. “I quilted for four solid days and then brought it back for them to bind. I enjoyed the process.”
“After it was completed and Judy came back in, we found out more of the story, and what the quilt was for,” Josh Hipke recalled, “And that Judy had started the Alzheimer’s organization. We were invited to the Memories and Melodies banquet and had a blast. We got to learn more by sitting next to Joanne at dinner.”
The Hipkes did not know until then that the current outreach specialist, Julie St. Pierre, had an office just above their store. They bid on the butterfly quilt and won it. And decided they wanted to be more involved.
“There’s always that good feeling from giving back.” Hipke said. “We feel like it’s a great organization and without getting help from us and people like us, it would kind of fade away.”
St. Pierre agreed.
“If you look at the list of donors it’s pretty obvious that, just like every other non-profit in the community, most of our support comes from the small, locally-owned businesses,” said St. Pierre. “When people shop local, they’re supporting the businesses that turn around and invest back into our community. That’s pretty priceless.”
Priceless, like a series of events that brought a group of people together as friends and created something special.