Threads - Connection and kindness, one stitch at a time

A talk with Anne Plett and Kathy Fast about local quilting and sewing group, Piece It Together

women with quilts

Manitoba — May 2024

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Kyle Rudge (00:02):

It begins with a single thread woven through other thread and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another, just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. Mennonite Central Committee is such a vast organization with connections and partnerships engaging in an almost immeasurable amount of projects around the world. Then setting all that international work aside and we turn our focus here locally and still it can feel like there's an immeasurable amount of impact and connection going on. But even then, if we set aside all the programs and partnerships locally, there's more to MCC.

Kyle Rudge (01:18):

Not the funnest of days to be out cycling to get here.
A few weeks back during that second winter we had, just after the false first spring, we always get, I hopped on my bike and headed to something called Piece it Together at the Fort Gary Mennonite Fellowship Church.
I'm looking for Anne.

Volunteer (01:39):

Hi, that's Anne. There's Anne. You must be Kyle.

Kyle Rudge (01:42):

I am Kyle.

Volunteer (01:43):


Kyle Rudge (01:44):

Wow. You guys are in full swing.

Volunteer (01:45):

We are.

Kyle Rudge (01:46):

Let me hang a few things up. Gimme a second here.

Kyle Rudge (01:48):

Piece It Together is a group of women who meet regularly to primarily make fundraising quilts to sell and raise money for the work of MCC.

Anne Plett (01:57):

Walk around if you want. This is our group, and this is our donation for today.

Kyle Rudge (02:02):

This is your donation for today?

Anne Plett (02:04):

Yes. People have been very generous in donating things that we sell. And then MCC gets the money.

Kyle Rudge (02:10):

Okay. So these will all be sold. So these are finished projects people have done at home?

Anne Plett (02:15):


Kyle Rudge (02:15):

Have brought here?

Anne Plett (02:16):


Kyle Rudge (02:17):

I see, I see.

Anne Plett (02:18):

So there’s a real mix match [sic] of things.

Kyle Rudge (02:24):

There I was speaking with Anne Plett. She is one of the organizers of the group.

Kyle Rudge (02:27):

What's your role here? You're just wandering around.

Anne Plett (02:29):


Kyle Rudge (02:31):

And you have free time to talk to me.

Anne Plett (02:33):

Yes, I do because everybody is busy. They know what to do. They do what they're skilled to do.

Kyle Rudge (02:42):


Anne Plett (02:42):

Not all of them are fine quilters.

Kyle Rudge (02:45):

So that's the hand quilting. That's fine quilting? 

Anne Plett (02:47):

That's fine quilting. 

Kyle Rudge (02:48):


Anne Plett (02:49):

Yeah. And these are the quilts that we sell as quilts.

Kyle Rudge (02:53):


Anne Plett (02:54):

Hand quilted quilts.

Kyle Rudge (02:55):

And they're far more elaborate than like your comforter where you just do the middle tie kind of thing? Okay.

Anne Plett (03:00):

We also have people doing comforters here though, because I work with MCC.

Kyle Rudge (03:06):

So like, are these a lot of familiar faces? Do you see new faces a lot?

Anne Plett (03:10):

We have grown from a group of six during COVID to a group of 32 that I have on my roster.

Kyle Rudge (03:18):

Thirty two. Oh wow. Is it just like, kind of like an event people kind of participate or is this like a community where it forms even bonds outside of the project itself?

Anne Plett (03:29):

Well, people know each other from outside, obviously. But yeah, we meet here every Wednesday, and so whoever can comes and whatever they bring their talent, we can use it in some way. And a lot of women here are here for the support. They've lost husbands some time ago, and one lady said to me, "if it wasn't for this group, I don't know what I would've done" because this is her support group.

Kyle Rudge (04:00):

I will remind you of the details at the end of the episode, but I'll do it here as well. Coming May 11th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship. That's 150 Bayridge Avenue in the general vicinity of University of Manitoba to give some idea of location. Many of these quilts, pajama pants, pillows, you name it - the artistic endeavors is probably a better descriptor - of these women will be on display and for sale. That's a day before Mother's Day as well. Just in case that gives you some ideas.

Kyle Rudge (04:30):

So what are we expecting for the sale? Like how much is gonna be there? Things like that.

Anne Plett (04:37):

To answer your question in terms of monetary value. We had probably about $60,000 in inventory.

Kyle Rudge (04:47):


Anne Plett (04:48):

What we did last year, we gave MCC, for the whole year, we gave them $25,000.

Kyle Rudge (04:56):

But why MCC? What is it about MCC that gives you that connection point.

Anne Plett (05:02):

Well, I'm a good Mennonite <laugh> and also, I mean, I have the history of parents being helped through MCC right?

Kyle Rudge (05:17):

Where are your parents from?

Anne Plett (05:19):

They're from South America. They came to South America through Peter Dyck, MCC stuff that happened there. And then from Paraguay, they came to Canada. So that's our journey. So yeah, you hear about MCC growing up and you hear about, you know, if it wasn't for MCC, we don't know what would've happened to us, or, you know, so that's the connection for me. I know Kathy has worked with MCC, she's been overseas for many, many years with MCC, so she has that perspective, which I don't. Yeah and we have, you know, a number of people on the committee that have really no connection with MCC in terms of heritage, but they also really believe in what MCC does and know through stories and know through, you know, events that have happened through MCC. They know where our funds are going. That's an impetus for them to be here.

Kyle Rudge (06:28):

I took some time wandering around the event, meeting various volunteers and seeing the projects all being worked on while I was there. As you can hear, the din of the conversation was in full swing for many in attendance and pulled me away to meet Margaret Froese, one of their volunteers, and technically their oldest volunteer.

Kyle Rudge (06:45):

Okay. So how long have you been doing, not this quilt, but maybe quilt, helping out with MCC in general?

Margaret Froese (06:51):

I started in '72 and I've been volunteering in many capacities throughout those years.

Kyle Rudge (06:57):

Yeah. So that's 52 years.

Margaret Froese (06:58):


Kyle Rudge (06:59):

<Laugh>, You've been volunteering longer than I've been alive.

Margaret Froese (07:03):

As a lot of these people are <laugh>.

Anne Plett (07:07):

Good to know it eh?

Margaret Froese (07:10):

Oh, it's been a good life. Yes.

Kyle Rudge (07:11):

Well, what got you started, right? In '72 what's going on in Margaret Froese's life that says, you know what, I'm gonna volunteer at MCC?

Margaret Froese (07:20):

Well, we just came back to Winnipeg. We were in Arizona. My husband was a pastor in a Hopi Indian Reserve, and so when we came back, we had a family of five and I needed to connect. I'm not a Manitoban, so learning to know people in Manitoba was connecting at MCC. I knew about MCC and so I started volunteering in the thrift shop and became manager of thrift shops and coordinating the thrift shop program in Manitoba. And always as a volunteer. So life just went on. Yeah.

Kyle Rudge (07:58):

How did you hear about MCC then? Is that something you had growing up?

Margaret Froese (08:01):

Oh, yes as a child. Oh yeah. We actually made bundles for overseas during the World War II. Yeah, so my history's probably quite ancient for you, but yes. <Laugh>. It started as a child, knew about MCC. My mother came over with that immigration in the 20's, so there was an obligation or a feeling of connection.

Kyle Rudge (08:31):

Margaret was incredibly sweet and talented. I swear her eyes were far better than mine, as I had to squint trying to find the stitching pattern that she so effortlessly followed. From Margaret, I met Kathy Fast. Kathy is another organizer of the event and also someone with a deep connection to MCC.

Kyle Rudge (08:48):

Hi Kathy.

Kathy Fast (08:49):

Hi. How are you?

Kyle Rudge (08:50):

Hi, I am Kyle.

Kathy Fast (08:51):

Yes. Glad to hear that you were interested in coming over.

Kyle Rudge (08:54):

So what's your connection to MCC?

Kathy Fast (08:56):

Oh, I worked there. I worked at the Plaza Drive as executive assistant for a while, in '94 to 2000, and then I was back '06 to '08, but moreso have been eighteen plus years in Africa with MCC.

Kyle Rudge (09:14):

Eighteen plus years in Africa?

Kathy Fast (09:15):

Five different countries.

Kyle Rudge (09:16):

Five different countries?

Anne Plett (09:17):

It's amazing that she's on the committee, right?

Kyle Rudge (09:19):

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Kathy Fast (09:21):

No, and we know what difference money makes at that end. What's needed here for living will go so far there. And I've worked in material resources here, like the, what's it called now? It's changed its name.

Anne Plett (09:36):

Humanitarian relief. MR is an in-house term.

Kyle Rudge (09:42):


Kathy Fast (09:43):

And then the other thing is I've also been at that end when we received these -

Kyle Rudge (09:49):

Right when you were out working. 


Kathy Fast (09:51): 

Yeah, yeah. Right. These school kits and blankets and so on and so forth that went to HIV orphans, AIDS orphans and helped hand them out. Widows, et cetera, et cetera. Right? So handing them and that's the department that the funding here goes towards. And last year, did you tell them? $25,000 last year from two events.

Kyle Rudge (10:10):

So before you're even working with MCC in that connection, like where is your connection?

Kathy Fast (10:15):

Oh, I mean, I grew up Mennonite and am Mennonite and so I guess when we were first married, no kids, I said "Let's go sign up with MCC." Didn't know where we'd end up. Ended up in Zambia in 1974. That's how it goes. So altogether working in a volunteer role with MCC has been 26 plus years.

Kyle Rudge (10:41):

Okay. So tell me a little bit more. You were in Africa for 18 years, you've seen the impact that that is. Can you describe what it's like handing that out? What is the reception like? A scene of that. Do you have any stories of people who receive?

Kathy Fast (10:54):

When you say, what does that feel like? Okay. Handing them out blankets at one time to a widow's group, which was, we were funding them for starting business startup. All HIV aids widows. They've lost their husbands and they're now on their own trying to raise their family. And so we, we being MCC, provided them with a hundred dollars as a startup business. It's nothing right? Not even a grocery list here. When the blankets came and this little lady, up to my shoulders, was so excited. She's hollering to her teenage son that's across the market who's embarrassed.

Kyle Rudge (11:35):

Yeah, of course. Well, he's a teenage son.

Kathy Fast  (11:37):

But she's hollering to come over here. Meanwhile, she takes me by her hands, whips me around her back, lifts me up, and then does some dancing. And my feet are hanging off the ground in her jubilee of the excitement of getting a blanket. You don't forget that, because I'm helpless on her back.

Kyle Rudge (11:54):

And you're like a cape. <Laugh>.

Kathy Fast (11:56):

I was a cape of appreciation from her, right? I mean, you don't forget that feeling. When you talk about a feeling? That scene doesn't go away. She was so excited and then we had to come to her house and she had to put it on her bed, but her house was a little square, which had a sheet hanging between, and then she had a cot and her son had a cot and there was a sheet in that. It was one room. So the sheet divided their space. And then she had some smaller children too, that were on the floor and stuff. But the teenage son had a bed and she had a bed and she had to put it on the bed and we all had to take pictures and <laugh> she was so happy. That one is a woman I do not forget. Now another African story. Can I add one more story?

Kyle Rudge (12:42):

Yeah, absolutely.

Kathy Fast (12:43):

Sudan had received also a bunch of blankets with these displaced people. And they also got some from UNHCR, which is the United Nations Refugee Council. They had also gotten a shipment of blankets, these gray wool standard blankets. And MCC comes with these beautiful colored blankets. People had received these gray, no offense to UN, they received these gray blankets and then their friends had gotten, or other people in the refugee camp had gotten these colors, they came back and wanted to trade. Was there a way to get an MCC blanket? I mean, that was their pride and joy. So that was just another story that sticks. I wasn't in that Sudan place, but having worked in Africa.

Kyle Rudge (13:29):

You hear those stories.

Kathy Fast (13:30):

And working with material resources, I heard those stories.

Kyle Rudge (13:34):

It's more than a group of dedicated volunteers. It's a community. It weaves their story into the tapestry that is the work of relief, development, and peace in the name of Christ through MCC.

Thank you Anne, Kathy, and Margaret for the invitation, the coffee and the story share. Piece it Together's annual spring quilt and craft sale is happening May 11th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship Church. The way Anne described the event to me is that there will be dainties and coffee and so much more provided. It's meant to be an experience and incidentally, something that you can take your mother to (their words, not mine) as well as a fundraiser in support of MCC's humanitarian relief efforts. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.


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