Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pat Winter's "The Comfort Doll Project"

I think you know that I just love the worldwide Arts & Crafts community on the web and find that everyone is so kindhearted and willing to help if they can. Well, there is an exceptional woman amongst the artists and crafters that I want to tell you about.

Her name is Pat Winter. Her blog is Gatherings By Pat Winter and her website is Gatherings By Pat Winter. However, the reason why Pat is so wonderful has nothing to do with her enormous talent as an artist. Nor does it have to do with her website or blog.

It has to do with her heart and her desire to help comfort someone else through an experience she was all too familiar with. It is because she started a beautiful project to help comfort battered woman called "The Comfort Doll Project."

I asked Pat if she would be willing to answer some questions for me regarding "The Comfort Doll Project" and she so willingly agreed.

1) What is "The Comfort Doll Project?"

The Comfort Doll Project is a program for battered and abused women in shelter's to receive a handmade doll with an inspirational note attached in hopes she feels comfort in knowing she is not alone and can get through her situation. In July I sent out an open invitation for anyone wanting to make a small doll , under 6", to be collected by me and mailed off to women's shelter's for battered women who are seeking help to better their lives and may need a comforting wish.

2) Why did you start this? What was your motivation?

What got me started was when an online group I am in, Crazy Quilting International about charity project suggestions. I knew of no other handcrafted donations given to Women's Shelter's, so I decided that would be a wonderful place to give.

Believe it or not, I was motivated by a doll I purchased from an artist, Linda Feuge of New York. I felt such a thrill and comfort in that doll and was surprised by my reaction. Having been a an abusive relationship long ago, I felt this need to offer other abused women the same experience a doll can bring. Especially when given from the heart and intended for them.

3) Since the comfort doll project began in July 2007 how many dolls have been made and how many recipients have received them?

To date, I have received 178 comfort dolls. Jo has received 14 I believe. I have shipped out 172 dolls to fourteen Women's shelters. I ship one dozen at a time.

4) How many shelters have received the dolls and what countries are they in?

Fourteen Shelter's have received one dozen dolls except one, who received 4 extras because they currently had 16 women in house at that time and felt they each needed one. All but one dozen were donated within the US. The other dozen was collected and distributed to a shelter in New Zealand by my friend and volunteer, Jo Newsham who resides there. I eventually want to send to each country from which the dolls were made and donated from.

5) What has been the reaction from the recipients? Have you received any feedback?

When I phone the Shelter's, I ask the directors if I could get a return acknowledgement after they receive the dolls so I can share it with the donors and let them know where their doll went. I post these on the Comfort Doll Blog when they arrive.

Many wonderful letters have been received and some emails thanking us and letting us know they were such a big hit with the women. There is a shelter director who is collecting comments from the recipients and soon she will forward them to me to share. When I describe our project, the usual reaction is "What a wonderful and needful thing to do". I must admit, one letter about one of the recipients had me in tears. It touches their souls, as if they were a child receiving their first doll. That's what it's all about.

6) Do the dolls just go to battered women or do they also go to battered children?

The dolls are intended for women because of the message of encouragement attached written for a woman. Also most dolls are embellished with tiny objects and beads which could harm children . I would love to do both, but I decided to direct the dolls to the women because from my own past personal experience I know the feeling of being in a bad situation.How hopeless you feel when you think you are the only one and alone. I am hoping this shows the recipient, she is not alone.

7) How often do the dolls get distributed?

The moment I collect one dozen, and I have a confirmed shelter address, they are tagged, bagged, and mailed out, usually next day.

8) How many artists and crafters are involved with the project and what countries are they from?

It is amazing, so far I have received dolls from 54 artists many sending several at a time, and the number grows weekly with interested women emailing for info. I have collected dolls from Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, England and several from France, and from 21 states.

9) Do you have to be a crafter or an artist to create a doll?

Absolutely not. I am a crazy quilter, not a doll maker,but I have learned so much from other's work. Dolls of every material has been donated, including ones made from wine corks. I believe, if it is from the heart, it's art. No labels needed to participate in the Comfort Doll Project.

10) Do you have a favorite amongst all the dolls that have been made and distributed?

There is such a variety, I could not possibly pick a favorite. To hold each piece of work in my hand gives me the warm fuzzies. I know each is made from love and from the maker's heart. Our motto is, "Given from our hearts what we make from our hands".

11) What do you tell a recipient when you give her a doll?

I wish I was the one presenting the dolls,but I only get to speak to the Shelter Directors. I let them know for whom they are intended, and from whom they are created. I ship a letter stating our intent with each box. There is a need for comforting women who have been abused and battered, some take it better than other's, and those who are frightened more than most, will hopefully find comfort and inspiration in her doll.

12) What are your long range goals for "The Comfort Doll Project?"

I wish I could continue collecting enough dolls to send a dozen to each state, then the countries from which the donors are from, then start all over again.

13) If someone wants to participate what do they need to do?

They can read about the project on my blog or web site, or they can email me anytime.

14) If you're not an artist or crafter or someone who sews is there some other way to contribute to "The Comfort Doll Project?"

Of course. You may sponsor a shipment for $5.00. That covers most of the Priority mailing fee. You will get credit as a sponsor of that particular dozen sent. You may send an encouraging message in a sealed envelope which I will include in a shipment for a woman. You really don't have to sew or be a doll maker. I just received three beautiful dolls made by a cross stitcher. She completed her design and stuffed it adding fabric on the back. Like I said, mixed media artists used weaving, corks, crazy quilting, beading, it is all in what you can think up. I do have free doll pattern sites listed on my blog for reference.

15) Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

My intentions in starting this project was to offer a venue for women to share their creations to comfort and show support of other women. It is not a fund raiser, I am not asking for money, and would only accept money with the intent of it going toward postage. The women who have participated have found it to be rewarding in many ways. Several women have started their own shelter donations within their states and countries. I have been told various other projects have grown from this idea. It is just awesome to see hearts open and share so freely. It truly does make the world a smaller place and much warmer to live in.

I am very proud of every donor, and so very grateful for each of them. Receiving joy in giving a part of ourselves to strangers is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves, and it continues to grow as this project shows. I want to thank every donor, and you as well, for showing your support for the Comfort Doll Project.

Pat Winter

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