Quilting Tradition Aids Orion’s Youth and Families in Need

The quilters from Olivet UCC

“Orion Quilts” have been a unique part of the culture of Orion Family Services for decades — at least since the early 1940s. They are provided by our United Church of Christ partners — made by local church quilting groups — across Wisconsin. At the program’s inception, the quilts were provided to youth entering Orion’s residential facility in Neillsville, Wis., or any of its group homes. Just like each child in Orion’s care, each quilt is unique and made with love. The youth were encouraged to take their quilts with them when they left Orion, regardless of the reasons for their departure. 

With the closing of its predecessor agency, Sunburst Youth Homes, in 2001 and Orion’s group homes in 2016, the supply of quilts received annually has declined. But one church, Olivet UCC in Columbus, Wis., continues to make quilts for Orion. Olivet’s quilters donate quilts to Orion once or twice a year, providing 20-30 quilts annually. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the church members also sewed masks when Orion, which is based in Madison, Wis., could not find PPE gear for its staff.

The quilts were blessed before their journey to Orion.

On Sept. 25, Orion CEO Stacey Parke did a presentation for the church during worship and received the gift of quilts. As a component of the service, the quilts were blessed by the Rev. Ruth Wagner Bradshaw, pastor, before they were packed up for their journey back to Orion. Some members and friends of the quilting group commented that they recalled sitting under similar quilts while they were being made in 1948, said Parke.

Today, the quilts can be used to identify the therapy space in a family’s home (over the kitchen table, for example), to empower a family superhero during a therapy session or skill building activity, or simply to provide warmth when needed.

“The quilts have always represented the uniqueness of each child we serve,” Parke said. “They are made with love and represent the faith and commitment of the church in its service to those in need and to the Council for Health and Human Service Ministry agencies.”

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