Mir Centre donors get unique and loving tribute

Peace-focused facility in Castlegar graced by expertly-crafted symbol

Those who were instrumental in the creation of the quilt included (L-R) Eileen Koozhetsoff (president of the USCC Ladies Cultural Interpretive Society)

CASTLEGAR – In order to recognize the generosity of its donors, the Mir Centre for Peace has fashioned a permanent tribute that’s custom made and uniquely fitting for the Castlegar landmark.

Earlier this month, more than 50 people gathered at the historic building overlooking the Columbia River at Castlegar’s Selkirk College Campus. The occasion was the unveiling of a handcrafted quilt serving as a donor wall to thank those who helped establish an endowment fund for the Mir Centre for Peace Lecture Series.

“It’s amazing,” said Pat Henman, part of the Selkirk College team charged with establishing the endowment fund for the lecture series. “I am so overwhelmed by its artistry and beauty. It’s phenomenal to see all those names that were so important to making the lecture series come to life digitized on the leaves of this quilt.”

The Mir Centre for Peace was established in 1999 with a mandate of understanding and building cultures of peace through education. The centre is housed in an early 20th Century Doukhobor communal dwelling on what was once traditional aboriginal lands. Selkirk College inherited the buildings and site in 1966.

The Mir Lecture Series is one part of the overall work being done at the centre. Each year the series brings in a diverse selection of inspiring local and international speakers who help promote the culture of peace. The first lecture took place in September, 2007 when Stephen Lewis came to the West Kootenay. Since that time between four and six speakers take part in the series each year.

In order to bring the renowned speakers to the West Kootenay—who present at a number of venues in Castlegar and Trail—the endowment fund was established as an important starting point. In total 129 individuals and groups donated to the fund. The quilt was put together in order to provide a unique way to recognize the community members who made it happen.

“We wanted something different and extra special, so we contacted the USCC Ladies Cultural Interpretive Society,” said Selkirk College Donor Services Coordinator Joyce Buckler. “Having the quilting ladies on board was a very important to us and helps speak to what this centre represents.”

Five quilters stepped forward to help with the project and this past summer poured hundreds of hours into creating the large quilt representing a tree and including 129 leaves digitized with the donor names.

“We went step by step, we had no idea that it would turn out like this,” said Mary Pozdnekoff, one of the members of the quilting team. “We have never done anything quite like this before and the outcome is more than we could have imagined.”

Pozdnekoff was joined by Timmie Jean Tack, Joy Rogers, Paulette Markin and Verna Chernoff on the project which started from scratch with the dying of the fabric and creation of the large tree. The individual leaves were then hand sewn and digitized with the names. Finally the intricate job of quilting the entire finished project fell into the hands of Chernoff.

“I’m really proud of this, it was my first attempt at an artistic flair,” said Chernoff, who has been quilting since she retired from teaching in Castlegar 11 years ago. “All my past work was patches and sew and structure. This was the first free motion attempt I have ever done.”

Chernoff—who has had her work featured at the prestigious Canadian Quilters Association Show—said there was plenty of pressure putting together this project.

“There is huge significance in those names and they must be recognized for their important contribution to the Mir Centre and this community,” said Chernoff. “I was so happy to take part and work with all the very talented ladies who made this happen.”

The next Mir Lecture Series event takes place on February 28 at 7 p.m. when American journalist and political activist Chris Hedges will speak at the Brilliant Cultural Centre. Tickets for the event are available at the Selkirk College Bookstore in Castlegar, Otter Books in Nelson and at the door ($16 and $13 for students/seniors).

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