VQC founder Betty GiffinVQC founder Betty Giffin

Victoria's Quilts Canada (VQC) was established by Betty Giffin of Ottawa in October 1999. She invited a small group of friends to discuss the possibility of groups getting together to make quilts to donate to people living with cancer in Canada. The group started slowly, but the idea gained interest and the group quickly gained momentum.

In its first year, VQC distributed 16 quilts to people with cancer. The following year, it was incorporated as a non-profit organization.

By 2002 and 2003, VQC had already expanded to include more than a dozen Friends Groups in the National Office area and 8 Branches across Canada. The non-quilting volunteer base also grew to include more administrative help. As in the past, the number of quilts requested increased along with public awareness.

2004 was a year of tremendous growth in many ways, and some inevitable struggles. Numerous world events translated into a tough economic climate for many non-profit organizations, including VQC. Fabricland Distributors Inc. and the Ontario Trillium Foundation provided essential capital and operating funds. With this support, the organization was able to worry less about funding and concentrate more on the making and delivery of quilts. This has always been our main focus and the acquisition of the new quilting frames and machines enabled us to provide more quilts to more people in a more timely fashion.

Bromley Friends Group in OttawaBromley Friends Group in Ottawa

The economic climate remained gloomy in 2005. While other non-profit agencies were suffering severe hardships, VQC's volunteer base steadfastly continued to provide much-needed financial and production-related support. The organization continued to grow with the addition of several new Friends Groups in the National Office area and more Branches across the country.

Growth has continued since 2006. Twenty-four Branches now operate across Canada, and twenty Friends Groups make and distribute quilts in the National Office area and to all parts of Canada not currently served by a Branch. In its early years, the Friends Groups in the National Office area were the mainstay of the organization, producing the larger portion of quilts that were distributed. By 2010, production had shifted, with more than half of the quilts being made in the Branches, at a local level.

Graph showing cumulative total of quilts delivered by year since 1999

A very special highlight in 2007 was the delivery of VQC's 10,000th quilt. It had taken ten years to reach this milestone. Three years later, however, the number of quilts delivered across Canada had more than doubled and, in November 2011, the 25,000th quilt was delivered to someone living in Prince Edward Island. In April 2016, VQC reached a new milestone with the delivery of its 50,000th quilt to someone living in Ottawa.

In 2009, VQC created the new Youth Initiatives Program to harness the enthusiasm and power of youth. Groups of young people met on a continuing basis in their high schools or rehabilitation centres to tie and pin quilts, preparing them for the final binding and labelling step, which was then done by VQC's regular member volunteers. The program proved to be a winning proposition, as VQC benefited from an increased supply of quilts, and the young people were able to earn the volunteer credits necessary for high school graduation.

In 2010, the Ontario Trillium Foundation bestowed a very generous grant to accelerate the program's expansion in the Ottawa area during 2011 and 2012, then extended it into 2013. As a result, the program expanded from 5 groups in 2009 to 19 groups in 2014. A milestone to expand the program by involving some 250 students in various groups was also surpassed with the participation of more than 300 students.

The year 2011 was financially challenging, and many changes were implemented in the subsequent two-year period. Financial and accounting practices were tightened, as were budgeting and fundraising activities. Progress was also made in registering our activities in all provinces.

In 2012, the National Office of VQC moved from its previous location (Betty Giffin’s basement) to its current rented site in Heartwood House, a non-profit, charitable organization that provides affordable, supportive accommodation to 18 non-profit organizations in Ottawa.

In 2013, registration of the VQC trademark was complete. In addition, two new Branches were opened: one in Moosomin (Saskatchewan), the other in Neepawa (Manitoba).

Changes continued in 2014, including establishment of new financial standards for the Branches and the National Office. We also retained the services of an accountant to prepare our yearly financial statements and provide advice, as required. Some Branches were retired and a new Branch opened up in Tignish, Prince Edward Island. This was also the year that National held its first Gayle Madely Memorial Quilt-a-thon to honour Gayle Madely, wife of Steve Madely, a well-known radio personality in Ottawa and long-time supporter of VQC. Gayle was a VQC quilt recipient and found great comfort in her quilt. This event was repeated the next year.

In 2015, VQC continued to grow and expand. Another new Branch opened in Woodstock/Oxford, Ontario and a new, bilingual website was launched. The latter included an online form for requesting quilts to help streamline and manage the increasing demand.

Quilt packers preparing quilts for mailingQuilt packers preparing quilts
for mailing

Production and distribution of quilts remain centre stage. VQC is fortunate to have an army of volunteers that works tirelessly behind the scenes: board members, quilt packers and quilt deliverers, group and branch leaders, administrative volunteers and fundraisers.

As founder Betty Giffin continues to say, "With the help of our volunteers, the community and blessings from above, we will continue to provide comfort, both physical and spiritual, to those struggling with cancer, and we will continue to grow until the day that cancer is no longer with us."

Updated: December 8, 2016