Local charity ‘sews’ back into community

Stitch it Forward is sowing the seeds of goodwill by sewing.

With Christmas in mind, Diane Herrick, board president and co-founder of the Stitch it Forward (SIF) charity, organized a sewing bee to make items for senior’s organizations.

“We gathered as a group of 41 volunteers who sewed 230 Christmas stockings, which we will be filling and handing out to seniors again.” It’s her third year into the project, and she said, “The only restriction is that it would brighten the lives of the senior (over age 65 to meet grant requirements). They will be filled with handmade items, chips from Hostess Frito-Lay, and more.”

“We also made 100 mittens, 25 shirt protectors for seniors. It was a busy three hours,” Herrick said, indicating an extraordinary level of skill and productivity among the volunteers. Funding from the New Horizon program allowed the organization to successfully make the stockings, and the mittens went to a Calgary mental health society.

Herrick drives a school bus by morning, from 6:10 – 8 a.m. and then again in the afternoons from 2 – 5:30 p.m. She said that the SIF program originated in 2018, when her husband had a second “massive heart attack” and ended up in Calgary at the Foothills Hospital. He had a bypass surgery and she said, “When we were there, they gave him a heart-shaped pillow. I asked where the pillows came from. They said, ‘We have some volunteers that make them for us, but they only make 30 a month. You’re lucky to get one because we have 10 new patients in the cardiac unit every day.”

She continued, “My daughter and I started sewing these pillows and taking them up to the Foothills.”

Other organizations began to request different items from Herrick and her daughter, so they decided to form a charity.

“I’ve been working in non-profits for 25 years, this is my third organization I’ve started from scratch. We now have 288 volunteers. Last year, we did over 15,000 projects and we clocked in over 25,000 volunteer hours. So, huge numbers. It’s grown this way in three years because COVID wasn’t good, but it made it easier for us because people were bored to be at home, so they might as well crochet or knit. There was also an increase in demand for things. We made 7000 masks, and we made 745 blankets for Blankets for Canada within three months. It was so good for people to stay busy at times when they were isolated in their homes. It had a twofold purpose.”

When Herrick began SIF, she was already handy and well-acquainted with the art of sewing. Her daughter has been in a Skills Canada competition for sewing, placing first in a local competition, and going to a provincial competition from there.

“She was four years old sitting on my lap sewing with me,” Herrick said.

She’s been a founding board member of the Lethbridge Community Network, on the Oldman Health Advisory Council, she helped the Alberta Government set up committees and boards and started Repeat Supplies through the Schizophrenia Society. That charity accepted excess project supplies and then sold them.

Anyone interested in receiving a stocking can email stitchitforwarded@gmail.com with “stocking request” in the reference line. Organizations and individuals can also email. Registering on JustServe.org is a great way for the organization to spread the word and recruit new volunteers. Requests will be filled by Dec. 15 and ready to be distributed.

Cal Braid, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Lethbridge Herald