Story last updated at 9/30/2009 - 11:33 am
JUNEAU - Nearly everyone is touched by cancer in some way, and a local fabric shop owner has found a way to stitch these connections together.
Martha Narino-Torres, the owner of Martina's Fabrics, is spearheading a quilting project that will raise money for the local branch of the Cancer Connection, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and support for those living with cancer and their families. Dozens of local quilters are contributing squares to a quilt which will be raffled off at the end of the month. All of the raffle profits will go directly to the Cancer Connection.
When her business was online only, Narino-Torres had worked on fundraising projects for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. After opening her new physical shop last April, she started looking for an opportunity to do something different and help the Cancer Connection.
She began talking with the people who came into her shop and found plenty of them had been touched by cancer, either personally or through a friend or family member.
"It really helps to unite a community," Narino-Torres said. "It may not touch us all in the same way, but it speaks a language we all understand."
The response to the quilt project so far as been tremendous, she said, both from large quilting groups such as the Capital City Quilters guild, and from smaller groups and individuals.
"You get an amazing array of different people, who because of personal involvement or being touched (by cancer), bring that with them," Narino-Torres said.
And with each different experience comes a different quilt block. Beginning this weekend, the quilt will start to be put together, creating a vibrant picture of a community's experiences with cancer. Many of the quilt blocks will include meaningful colors or something else that makes a personal connection to someone who has battled cancer.
The physical act of creating something in memory of someone lost to cancer is a "labor of love," Narino-Torres said.
"On a project like this, there's a lot more of my emotions involved because there are people who've walked in and out of my life because of this disease," she said. "They've left an indelible mark."
"It's a way to honor these folks," said Izabel Bowers, who is helping Narino-Torres with the project.
Narino-Torres plans to get started on more quilt projects to support other causes in the future. As early as November, she hopes to begin supporting youth groups and arts and crafts programs at local schools. She sees these programs as important both for giving students a creative outlet and teaching valuable life skills.
"I know how much it impacted my children," she said of arts programs in school.
A self-described "fabric-aholic," Narino-Torres said she's been involved with fabric arts since birth. Her mother was a bridal seamstress and she began sewing at an early age. Once she had children of her own, she found quilting allowed her to work on projects without needing as much space to work in - with quilting she could take out just one block a time and work on it.
The current quilt project needs 72 blocks to hit their target. Quilters are encouraged to stop by Martina's Fabrics to find out more about contributing to this or other projects.
Narino-Torres said the group will plan on putting the quilt together Oct. 4 and 11.
For those who want to get involved in quilting, Narino-Torres said there are more groups than she can count in town, and multiple offerings for classes and advice and her and other fabric shops in town. "I know all the shops have great staff on board, great offerings," she said.
The quilt will be raffled off on Oct. 30 at the Moose Lodge. Tickets can be picked up at Martina's Fabric, located at 5750 Glacier Hwy Ste E-1, for $5 each or five for $20. Martina's Fabric is open Tuesday-Friday 5-8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store's Web site is www.martinasfabric.com. Learn more about the Cancer Connection at www.cancerconnectionak.org.