Sewing a Sisterhood
by Danielle Koleniak
I read a quote the other day online that really made me stop and think. It wrote, “Best friends are the people in life that make you laugh louder, smile brighter, and live better.” The 17 sort-of cheesy/poetic words really made me stop and think. I realized how much of who we truly are is built by the relationships we have in life; Our relationships with our spouses, kids, parents, coworkers, friends and God. They make up the circle that surrounds our life and gives us a greater sense of meaning (and sometimes a lot of headache).DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
When we went over to the Villas to check out what the Craftie Ladies are really about, we didn’t know what to expect. What they do is pretty simple; a group of about 20 women get together each Monday from 1:00 to 3:00 and work on their projects. They crochet blankets, scarves, clothes and the list goes on (this isn’t your average stringing colored-pasta on a necklace group). They sell their products throughout the year and give the proceeds to a select charity in the community. But what they really do is so much more. They are a community- each other’s support system. When we sat down with members, Cathi Koehn and Mercedes Fiorella, they spoke candidly about what life was like when they fi rst moved to Southwest Florida and into the Villas.
They didn’t know the area, came with very little, and left everyone they knew behind. When the ‘Craftie Ladies’ began, they knew they’d find a commonality because they share the same hobby, but they never expected to find a sisterhood.
When one member doesn’t show up, they call her or stop by her home to check on her. They teach one another how to build their skill level.They smile and laugh a lot. Most importantly, they love each other and never have to live life alone again. After all, there’s no closer bond than a sisterhood.
Damian: Tell me a little about yourself.
Cathi Koehn: I’m Cathi Koehn. I came here March 25, 2013 from Wisconsin. I came here because of my health and I needed to be where it was warm.
Mercedes Fiorella: My name is Mercedes Fiorella. I came here from Las Vegas. I’m originally from New York. I lived in San Diego for about 25 years.
Damian: Give me some background about how you came here.
Cathi: I came here to visit my sister. It was just going to be a visit. Then I realized I can’t do Wisconsin winters anymore. We went looking around and someone told me about the Villas. So, I came and I was number 51 on the list.I moved in that March. We put my stuff in a U-Haul trailer behind my PT Cruiser and we came to Florida. I’ve been here since and I love it. It’s such a comforting place. They’re my new family.
Damian: Tell me about your relationship with your late friend Bobbie.
Cathi: We all met at the Villas. We were known as the Gabor Sisters. When Bobbie got really sick, Sandy and I took care of Bobbie. There were days where it was stressful with her cancer. After Bobbie passed, my body decided it was on the downswing. This summer I wasn’t able to do any of my crafts. I couldn’t function because my body went into a major flare up. I’m just now coming out of it. That’s the thing with Rheumatoid arthritis, your emotions affect it very much. We took care of her. We made her a shawl so she was always warm. She’s still warm in our hearts.
Mercedes: I saw her the day before I left to go to Massachusetts. She was sound asleep and looked frail. When she heard my voice she woke right up. It was as though she was just taking a nap. She asked when I would return and then said when I get back we would go out. I said ok and goodbye. She died the very next day.
Damian: How do crafts keeps you going, building and bonding in your friendships?
Kathy: Every Monday from one to three we do crafts and we help one another out. We have so much talent. We went from fi ve members to over 20. We help one another out with our projects and that’s how the relationships build.
Mercedes: With the women it’s comradery…a bonding. If you’re stuck, someone’s there to help you. You have the same mission purpose. It’s good, it’s very good. There is a bonding. We designate the donations at the end of the year to go to a local charity that helps children. When you see a need for something, how can you not help out?
Damian: Where have you made a difference in years past? How do you decide?
Mercedes: We make the decision as a group. We’ve given a good percentage back to the food pantry. Any little bit extra helps. It’s a way of giving back to the community. I really feel we are making a difference. There’s just no doubt about it. This group that I’m involved with has kept me here because there is a sense of belonging and a mission purpose.
Cathi: This is our family now. When you get that new bond, it becomes your new family. There’s the caring, too. We’re in a close group.
Danielle: What kind of bond would you consider your group to be?
Cathi: A sisterhood. You know, like the ‘Red Hat Ladies.’ We’re the Craftie Ladies. We form a bond that when we don’t see each other we want to know why and what’s wrong. That’s our environment here. It’s a circle.
Craftie Ladies is open for anyone to join! They meet every Monday at the St. John XXIII Villas from 1:00pm-3:00pm