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Charity that makes quilts for residential school survivors gets special recognition from Canadian Chamber

A charity that makes quilts for residential school survivors, based in Timmins, Ont., has received special recognition at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Inclusive Growth Awards.

Vanessa Genier started Quits for Survivors in 2021 to honour, and bring a little joy, to survivors of residential schools, day schools and the Sixties Scoop.

“I started it after hearing of the unmarked graves in Kamloops, B.C.,” she said.

“And I just felt as a mother, an Indigenous mother, knowing that my great grandparents had attended residential school, knowing that my grandfather and his siblings were hidden so they wouldn’t have to go, I just felt that I needed to do something. I wanted to do something.”

Four people working on quilts.
Vanessa Genier, front, has received plenty of support to make quilts for residential school survivors. (Submitted by Vanessa Genier)

As a single mother, Genier said she wanted to do something that wouldn’t take her away from her home for long periods of time.

She had been a quilter for 30 years, and thought that was something she could offer survivors.

“I just thought, well, this is my gift. I’m going to use that and I’m going to bring some comfort,” Genier said.

Her initial goal was to make 18 quilts she could hand out to survivors, but thanks to an “overwhelming response” from the start, she was able to meet that goal in two weeks.

With help from volunteers across Canada, Genier said Quilts for Survivors has now delivered more than 3,800 quilts to survivors from coast to coast.

She said her goal is for the organization to make 40,000 quilts, for every living survivor.

“It gives them something that they didn’t have as children,” Genier said.

“No one told them that they loved them, or that they appreciated them, or that they were valued, or that they could succeed in anything in life.”

Chamber of Commerce award

The Canadian Chamber’s Inclusive Growth Awards recognize chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and businesses who have implemented successful initiatives to advance economic reconciliation, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

“Inclusion isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a cornerstone of a resilient and thriving business landscape,” said Diana Palmerin-Velasco, senior director of future of work with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, in a press release.

“We’re proud to recognize these exceptional organizations and entrepreneurs who are leading the way in creating a Canada where everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Genier said after receiving special recognition from the Canadian Chamber, they will add a category for non-profit organizations at their next awards ceremony.

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