SOCIAL JUSTICE QUILTING PROJECT WITH KENT STATE TO BENEFIT THE KING KENNEDY COMMUNITY CENTER; Kent State Today; September 8, 2022
In August 2021, 1,000 incoming Kent State students, faculty and staff began a collaborative community effort to implement a social justice quilting project. This initiative stemmed from the Community Engaged Learning (CEL) department's welcome week and was completed in late August 2022.
“The students were only given fabric, fabric glue, stencils and cookie cutters,” Louise Ditchey, academic program officer and coordinator for the executive master of the business administrations program at Kent State, said. “Then after a year of hard work, we all created these quilts together.”
Ditchey and Karen Gajewski, Family and Community Services (FCS) project coordinator, were brought onto the project in August 2021 to help complete the quilts. FCS’s agency began with a dedication to empower the Portage County community. Today, FCS is still making a difference in the Kent community through its collaboration in this initiative.
“In this project we first needed to find people to help us assemble these square quilts,” Gajewski said, “and I have connections at the senior center at FCS. So we had a lot of volunteers who helped us for about four to five months do the embroidery and piecing together all of these quilts.”
Even though the stitching was complete after help at FCS, Ditchey then ran into a group of sewists called the Quilters Cocoon Makers who did the final hand stitching for the project for three months before completion.
“The overall mission has been to create something by Kent State students that could be sold or auctioned off to raise money for improvements to the gymnasium at the King Kennedy Community Center,” Ditchey, said. “I also think this was a part of welcome week to show students they have a home and a voice here.”
At the time, the neighborhood of McElrath Park, where the community center is located, was ranked one of the nation’s most underprivileged rural communities, according to its FCS. The center now flourishes with a new gymnasium to which the proceeds from this project will go.
“There is a very rich history between Kent State and the center,” Heather Laliberte, director of grants and development at Family and Community Services, said. “Kent State students in the 1970’s helped create the community center, so this project was a natural extension of that connection.”
The quilting squares will be available through an online auction until Sep. 9, 2022. All proceeds from the bidding will go towards the community center's brand new recreational facility which hosted an open house Sept. 8, 2022, from 4 - 7 p.m.
“Everyone did such amazing work and it has an amazing intergenerational aspect with everyone involved,” Laliberte said. “This helps a lot of people and it's such a happy story.”
Learn more about CEL, visit www.kent.edu/community.
WRITTEN BY: TAYLOR HAYDU