Winner of the First-Ever PaperGirl Essay Contest: Lori Fontaine of Canada!

posted in: PaperGirl Mailbag 29
Included in Lori's letter, scanned in by me.
Included in Lori’s letter, scanned in by me.

Congratulations, Canada: You are lucky to claim Ms. Lori Fontaine, who has won first place in the first-ever PaperGirl Leaders & Enders Essay Contest.

Our veterinarian Kristin communicated honestly the healing power of quilts in our personal lives. Kathleen’s essay expressed the pure joy of making, the inspiration around every corner, as well as the pricelessness of quilting friends.

But Lori Fontaine, you made me weep. Mom, too. I could hardly get it together as I read through your essay the first, second, and third time. Really, the contest was yours at “plastic sheeting.” With humility and plain speech, you told the story of the power of quilts and the heart of a quilter. Thank you, and thank you to your group. May you make quilts a long time and put them in the mail.

My leaders and enders are yours, Fontaine. I’ll be in touch soon and congratulations. (I’ve left in all your funny Canadian spellings. They’re neat!)

1st Place Winner
Lori Fontaine

“Trust me when I tell you you’ll want to quilt it and hand-tie it,” she said. 


“Because they don’t have Maytag washers in the Third World. That quilt’ll be pounded on the rocks to be cleaned.”

Well, that made it clear. Suddenly, it wasn’t about the bright colours or the design; this was about the reality, which was scary. A stranger would treasure my work enough to clean it using back-breaking labour, scrubbing it on rocks, probably in muddy water. It would perhaps be the only treasure that person would ever possess. So my little quilt, with its wonky seams, had the ability to erase even for a second the world of not enough to eat, the constant scream of poverty.

That first quilt — how many lifetimes ago! — went to Nepal. A child receiving life-changing surgery was given a quilt rather than the plastic sheeting that was typically used during post-op. We were told to make the colours bright and happy, to make the quilts for boys or girls. 

About five months later, our quilt group was asked to attend a slideshow so we could see the facility where the surgeries had been performed by volunteer doctors, nurses, and other kind souls that wanted to make a difference. There was a handful of photos scattered on an eight-foot table at the front of the room, but I was at the back, chatting with a friend and didn’t bother to look at them. 

When the lights went down, we looked into their eyes. The eyes of strangers that were receiving our love from Canada. There were smiles reaching through a lens to greet those that wanted to help from so far away, even a little bit. 

The world became so tiny. 

I went to the front of the room and looked at the photos on the table. Then, my eyes got wet and I could no longer see clearly. My little quilt, with its bright yellow fabrics, was wrapped around a child with big brown eyes. A printed banner above the image said, “Thank you, quilters.” 

My back doesn’t ache when I’m working on a quilt that’s going overseas. It’s always, “Just one more stitch, then I’ll head to bed…”

The quilt I’m working on now is an explosion of bright fabrics featuring creatures of the sea. Dolphins, coral, electric rainbow fish. Wherever on the planet this one lands, my name will be on the back. A stranger from Canada, sending love. Beating back some of the darkness that lives in the world, the only way she knows how.


29 Responses

  1. Jodie K Moore
    | Reply

    Love love love your Choices! Thank you!

  2. Annette Deardurff
    | Reply

    Wow, how powerful! And how beautiful!

  3. Lee
    | Reply

    That last sentence is everything. Especially right now, so much darkness is in the world. Thanks for doing this, Mary and thanks Lori for that this essay and for sending your love and light into the world.

  4. Kathleen Kurke
    | Reply

    Thank you, Canada, for sending love around the world.

  5. Jennifer Reinke
    | Reply

    Thank you Lori for no truer words. Sometimes I will over-think and worry because my points and seems don’t seem to “match up”, but in reality if you are donating to a group or cause–they have more BIGGER problems to worry about. Puts it in better perspective. This was beautiful, thank you.

  6. Robin Tuckerman
    | Reply

    Great first choice!

  7. Jean
    | Reply

    This contest was phenomenal. Please do it again . Your choices were excellent. All 3 struck a chord with me. Mary, you are amazing and I love following you.

  8. Deanna
    | Reply

    Would like to know the name of the charitable group that Lori worked with to send the precious quilts. What a special lady. Congrats, Lori.

  9. Cheryl Modzelewski
    | Reply

    I would like to help. Can I send quilts to Canada for their next shipment? Or send fabric to the Canadian quilters?

  10. Susan
    | Reply

    Simply. Beautiful.
    Speaks directly to the heart of the quilter’s soul.
    Now. Back to work. One more stitch…

  11. Lori jansen
    | Reply

    What a wonderful story! A labour of love that would usually go unnoticed . And yes..I did use my Canadian spelling too!

  12. Cathy
    | Reply

    Just when I thought the words couldn’t get any more powerful, they did! Beautiful choices, Mary!

  13. Linda
    | Reply

    No matter how much a gifted quilts means to a person, the un-gifted quilt can mean ever so much more to the receiver.

  14. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    Yes Mary. Perfect choice. –LORI FONTAINE! Lady you ROCK!

  15. Linda
    | Reply

    A beautiful story and proof that a quilt is still what it has always been . No matter modern or traditional , hand tied, computer quilted or hand quilted, scraps or designer fabric. A quilt is love and comfort. Thank you Lori for your work and your words

  16. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    Changing the world one quilt at a time. Inspired and we were mesmerized. Thank you Mary for a peak into the souls of quilters. It has been an honor. Quilt on ladies, quilt oon.

  17. Melanie
    | Reply

    The tears are now streaming!!

  18. Barbara
    | Reply

    Lori, if only there were more people like you who really cared. I could feel it with every word I read.

  19. Robin Cassidy
    | Reply

    This is so beautiful and inspirational to read. You were right, definitely needed some Kleenex.

  20. Karen Seitz
    | Reply

    The photo say a lot and the essay says more, but the giving of the quilt says it all.

  21. Janice
    | Reply

    A lovely story from a fellow Canadian and maybe neighbour. (we love to get our spelling into your posts!)

  22. Neame
    | Reply

    ….beating back the darkness. Oh Lori, I love you for that phrase alone, not to mention your fine and successful efforts at bringing light. Moving and loving and sad and wonderful. Your essay is THE reason to read.
    Well chosen, Mary.

  23. Barbara Gelpi
    | Reply

    Deanna and Cheryl, I know that in both the US and Canada, Lutheran World Relief sends quilts overseas to people in need. (They fill those containers that go on cargo ships with quilts!) There are donations sites in both countries. Not sure if Lori can answer specifically where she sends hers, but i wanted to add this for those above questioning where to send. Great essays, Lori, Kathleen and Kristin. Great choices, Mary and Marianne Fons. Thank you for this essay contest!

  24. Lori Fontaine
    | Reply

    Hello Everyone (Mary, I am SO sending you the biggest hug on this Easter Sunday!!!)

    Your kind words have completely overwhelmed me and I thank you.
    To answer your questions, the particular quilt I spoke about was taken to Nepal through a Rotoplast Wrap a Smile Campaign. It was a joint Canada/U.S. Mission (YAY!!!) including B.C. as well as Washington State and Idaho. You could contact your local Rotary Club for more information on the Wrap a Smile Campaign.
    There are so many ways to help this dark world…a couple of suggestions: your local Women’s Shelter, local Drop In Centre (Canadian spelling again!!!), Hospitals, Senior Residence Nursing Homes, Cancer Treatment Centres, Project Linus (Blankets for Critically Ill Children). The list, unfortunately, is endless. The amazing Nancy Zieman even has a book available called Creative Kindness which will inspire you even more.
    Thank you again for your kind words about my essay. Quilters and Crafters are the warriors in this battle to beat back the darkness. Fight On!!!
    Lori Fontaine

  25. Karen Morrell Johnson
    | Reply

    Thank you Lori, for the beautiful essay and the information/tips on how to help beat back the darkness.

    Thank YOU Mary, for encouraging all of us to write. It was fun to write for pleasure again, it’s been too long.

  26. Jill Bell
    | Reply

    Well spoken Lori on behalf of all who donated a quilt. Mine has loud red, yellow, orange a green stripes, I imagined it going to a,boy. I was overwhelmed to see a photo of the sweetest little girl wrapped in my quilt, how I wished it had been covered in pink roses.

  27. Elizabeth Robinson
    | Reply

    I know Lori personally..we have a coffee date tomorrow! Her essay was so lovely…and I can tell you that Lori is very talented in all areas of her life…and very humble. I’m so happy to call her my friend.

  28. […] First-Ever PaperGirl Essay Contest proved what I already knew: There are writers among […]

  29. Girl
    | Reply

    alert(“good content”)

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