Sewing a Legacy

Sewing a Legacy - the Sew a Legacy Project

When the City of Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, residents took pride in the colourful banners hanging from light poles celebrating Vancouver's successful bid. Those original banners have since been retired to make room for a new set during the Games. But people can take pride in the banners once again.

Rather than discard the 700 banners, the City decided to re-use them in a creative new way. The City and its partners launched the Sew A Legacy project, employing inner-city residents to transform the banners into sports bags for local school children, creating a lasting legacy for the community.

Setting the Pattern

"VANOC saw the value of what we were trying to accomplish."- Wendy Au Vancouver Assistant City Manager

The project took its first step in April 2009 when the City (offering funding through its Great Beginnings program) brought in two organizations, the Common Thread Cooperative and the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS), to create the sports bags. The aim of this stage of the project was to support the development of new employment opportunities and enhance the effectiveness of Downtown Eastside sewing businesses. The Common Thread Cooperative brings together a number of groups that run sewing programs and helps them find work for their members. EMBERS creates economic and employment opportunities for disadvantaged people in the Downtown Eastside.

Common Thread gathered a number of organizations to handle the sewing. They included groups representing inner-city residents (mostly women), First Nations, and newcomers to Canada, including:

  • the Aboriginal Mother Centre;
  • Malalay (the Afghan women's sewing and craft co-op);
  • the Kettle Friendship Society;
  • EMBERS; and
  • Coast Mental Health Sewing with Heart.

In total, there were 20 people with varying degrees of sewing skills who were employed on the project. Common Thread spokesperson Melanie Conn says this was a big step for the groups involved.

"We've never done anything on this scale before."

But Conn says everyone was eager for the challenge and wanted to show it was possible for this kind of project to succeed using their cooperative approach.

From there, Assistant City Manager Wendy Au says it was a matter of getting the approval of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

"The banners have the Olympic Host City logo on them. VANOC saw the value of what we were trying to accomplish and allowed us to use it."

With all of the necessary approvals stitched together, the actual sewing was able to begin in June 2009.

Read the entire article here.

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