2012-08-17 / Community

Ladies Stitch And Quilt For A Good Cause

By Ana Solares

It all began more than 20 years with a small closet armed with sewing machines at St. Francis de Sales Church and a group of women on a mission. The Rockaway Quilter’s Society was founded by Rockaway Park real estate proprietor Maureen Walsh during the height of the AIDS crisis in 1991. For Walsh, the idea of forming a quilter’s club in Rockaway was born after reading an inspirational article from the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet.

The article featured Maureen McCormack, a woman who was inspired by the work of Ellen Algharan who founded the ABC Club (AIDS Baby Crib Quilt) which made crib quilts for AIDS babies treated in hospitals across the country. According to the story Walsh read, McCormack’s newly founded sewing group was able to create as many as 2,000 quilts per month, distributing them across all five boroughs. Walsh, needless to say, was inspired.

“When I read this story, I immediately called up The Tablet and told them that I would like to help them,” Walsh said. “They said ‘Come right on over’.”

Receiving supplies from St. Rose of Lima, where McCormack’s society was stationed, Walsh’s team helped their effort by stitching sixty quilts in its first year, all of which went to Jamaica Hospital. Later, the club would also be helped with supplies by St. Francis de Sales Church and the Rockaway Rotary Club.

“The parish of St. Francis was really wonderful. They gave us room to work in and $250, which the Rotary then matched with a grant they awarded to us. Father Geraghty, the pastor of the parish also played a key role in all of this. He let us use the facilities of the church,” Walsh said.

Although the quilts were beauties all of their own, Walsh remembers a time when the group’s initial efforts were met with some resistance.

“ABC would call up hospitals and ask them if they had any AIDS babies and they would say no. Later, when the correct political term ‘At Risk’ babies was adopted, hospitals began to be more receptive,” she said.

More than two decades later, the quilting club still gathers at St. Francis de Sales School in Belle Harbor on Wednesday nights to sew for warmhearted causes that range from the elderly to soldiers fighting overseas.

“It’s been a terrific group from the start and until now. They have been generous with their time, fabrics, and talents. We make scarves for the Special Olympics, stub socks for veterans, and knit and crochet hats for soldiers overseas,” Walsh continued. “We also did a wall hanging for St. Francis de Sales and a quilt show at Fort Tilden a couple of years ago.”

For the quilters, most of the complicated handmade work that features fine stitching and patterns are done at home. The Wednesday meetings are normally the place for any ‘finishing touches’ and to share ideas.

When the group gets together, according to Walsh, it’s a matter of putting in the ‘batting,’ the soft material that gives the quilter’s a comforter feel, and then stitching on the ‘tops,’ the top and bottom layers of the quilts. St. Francis, Walsh says, is the perfect place for the ladies to get the job done.

“St. Francis has these long tables which are perfect for the big quilts, and big round tables that also fit the crib quilts,” she said.

Over the years, the efforts of the quilting team have been aimed more towards the elderly, in particular hospice centers which care for those in their final moments of life.

“The elderly that arrive at hospice

City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden announced the launch of the new NYC Census FactFinder, the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) online map portal for accessing U.S. Census Bureau data.

The revamped NYC Census FactFinder, developed in conjunction with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), provides users with greater flexibility in searching for the most up-to-date population profiles for specific locations in New York City.

Users can now examine 2010 Census data including the number of people who rent versus own homes; racial and age breakdown; and the number of housing units in their neighborhood.

In addition, users can quickly and simply view 2010 Census profiles for different geographies as well as comparisons to 2000 Census data, a feature that was not previously available in NYC Census FactFinder.

Not only has NYC Census FactFinder been updated with 2010 Census data, but it has been completely reengineered with the look and feel of NYCityMap, the City’s popular online map portal, and ZoLa, City Planning’s interactive one-stop map tool for land use information.

“The NYC Census FactFinder is one of the most frequently used tools on City Planning’s website, and I am happy to release this new and greatly improved version.

Sifting through Census data can be a daunting task. Now, New Yorkers can easily find demographic information and, for the first time, view changes in their communities with this simple tool that will be familiar to anyone who has used ZoLa, our interactive land use map, or NYCityMap. NYC Census Fact- Finder is the latest initiative in which we are improving the ways that our award-winning website serves the public,” said Burden.

To begin a search on NYC Census FactFinder, first choose the type of geographic area you want to profile. The two options are:

 Census tract: Census tracts are small areas of New York City boroughs that cover several blocks and generally have a population of 3,000 to 4,000 people.

 Neighborhood Tabulation Area: Neighborhood Tabulation Areas, or NTAs, are groupings of census tracts from the 2010 Census with minimum populations of 15,000 that DCP makes available for ease of analysis. NTAs were originally created by City Planning to project populations for small areas from 2000 to 2030 for PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s long-term sustainability plan for New York City. NTA boundaries and their associated names do not definitively represent neighborhoods.

After choosing the type of geographic area, select your location. You can search by address, intersection, place of interest (such as Grand Central Terminal, Brooklyn Borough Hall or Yankee Stadium), census tract, subway station, or Neighborhood Tabulation Area.

Searching by intersection, census tract and Neighborhood Tabulation Area are new search options in NYC Census FactFinder that were not previously available in the tool.

Alternatively, you can zoom in on a section of the map and select areas of interest.

To create your own study area, you can select multiple census tracts using the buffer tool, which highlights a radius (.1 to .5 of a mile) around your selected location.

Once you have made your selection, you can view the full demographic profile for the area — including race and Hispanic origin, household size, housing occupancy, age and more — in the 2010 Census Profile tab. You can also compare the data for the selected area to New York City or any of the five boroughs.

In addition, under the Demographic Change tab, you can see how these data have changed over the past decade, from the 2000 Census to 2010, a feature that was not previously available in Census FactFinder. This is an important addition to the tool.

Instead of looking back and forth at data sets from the two Censuses, demographic change can now be easily accessed and analyzed in Census FactFinder.

By the end of the year, Census FactFinder will be further enhanced to include demographic, socioeconomic, and housing profiles from the most recent American Community Survey, which also was not included in the previous version of Census FactFinder.

To use Census FactFinder, visit City Planning’s website, www.nyc.- gov/planning, and click on the Census FactFinder logo. You can also get to Census FactFinder directly by visiting http://gis.nyc.gov/census.

First time users are encouraged to review the user guide and frequently asked questions. All NYC population data can be found at nyc.gov/population. come there not just physically, but also emotionally drained. It’s hard for many of them to accept death,” Walsh said. “When they see these quilts, it’s incredible. The fact that someone cares for them at that point in their lives is really a comfort for them.”

The quilting group participates in the “Right to Life” mass at 10:30 a.m. inside St. Francis de Sales annually on the first Sunday of October when a special ceremony is held for the quilts before they are sent to local hospitals.

“The priest places the quilts on the end of the pews and on the altar and people come in and they bless them. It’s a beautiful service,” Walsh said. Raffles featuring some of the quilts take place after the mass to raise funds for the society. For Walsh and members alike, the quilts are simply ‘true works of art.’ “When I say that the quilts take on a beauty of their own in church, they really do,” she said. “We’re blown over by how they appear in the church, it’s emotionally overwhelming. It’s like they take on the peace felt within in the church.”

Walsh says joining the quilter’s society is simple. Those interested should attend any of their Wednesday meetings at 7 p.m. inside the St. Francis de Sales School on Beach 129 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

“We’re very laid back. We have people that are extremely skilled and people that can’t sew a button on,” said Walsh. “All you have to do is just show up.”

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