The Collectors

December 13, 2021

December 13, 2021

The Collectors: Supporting Angel Tree over the Years

The Collectors have supported the Angel Tree Christmas Campaign since 2019, with 3323 items donated to date. This year, Angel Tree was provided with 2117 handmade items, including blankets, quilts, little bears, hats, mitts, and slippers; as well as 827 items for the South FASD Network Christmas packages, in partnership with Angel Tree.

In 2021, The Collectors Charity distributed 8536 handmade items to Lethbridge, and to Provincial and International Missions.
This is their story:

The Collectors consists of 53 volunteers living in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. All are equally valuable but not all produce at any one time. Like most non-profit organizations, volunteer production can be sporadic or prolific. Many volunteers create The Collectors little bears, like Terry & Barry Bannerman, and Betty Reed, who completed 1,000.

The Team

Denise Chouhan: Executive Director of The Collectors; has been serving The Collectors in a variety of positions in Cranbrook, B.C. and now Lethbridge, AB for over 15 years. She recruits, organizes the team, initiates training, sews quilts, crochets dishcloths, hygiene cloths and toques; purchases materials and helps to wash fleece blankets before each new project. Denise and Janine determine the distribution of the items made along with input from our team.

Isabel Dzioba: (Deceased) Denise's grandmother, and a friend of Alberta Segouin. Isabel suggested in 2011 that The Collectors make a smaller stuffed bear for an orphanage in the Philippines, which would also be provided to any organization serving infants and children under 6 years old. A soft, small, pliable bear is user friendly for infants and small children who have limited manual dexterity. Isabel was part of a team of ladies who distributed thousands of handmade blankets, toques, scarves, dishcloths, hygiene cloths, book bags, pencil cases, and shift dresses via The Collectors, over the past 15 years, locally and internationally.

Alberta Segouin: (Retired Business Owner/Hairstylist and Grandmother Extraordinaire) has sewn and filled 690 bears for The Collectors in 2021; approximately 2000 to date. Over the past 12 years, Alberta has sewn and donated hundreds of 2 foot tall poly filled fleece bears to The Collectors which were sent to Missionaries in the Philippines for distribution. Since 2017 she has volunteered her time to The Collectors sewing smaller bears and making hygiene cloths for Soap for Hope.

Betty Lippert: (Retired from working in Client Services at the Rehab Society, is a generous supporter of The Collectors and Grandmother Extraordinaire) Betty has hand sewn 400 bears this year; and approximately 2500 bears since 2017. She is also a major donor of sewing and toque yarn, handmade slippers, and baby and lap blankets.

Martha Penner: (Retired farm wife and Grandmother Extraordinaire) Martha makes blankets, blanket tops, hundreds of pencil cases for Operation Christmas Child, hundreds of book bags for a literacy program in Cranbrook, B.C. and has sewn 600 bears for distribution in the Calgary Reach Program and our Lethbridge charities this year; 1200 to date.

Jenni Parton: (Client Services--Homecare, Housekeeper and Extraordinary Mother) Jenni has sewn 60 bears for The Collectors this year; approximately 300 to date.

Sheila Gunderson: (LPN at Seniors Lodge in Medicine Hat and Volunteer Extraordinaire) Sheila has filled and finished 300 bears since 2020. She also makes toques and scarves for The Collectors.

Alberta Rose Lodge residents have sewn 134 bears for The Collectors since October as a short term project.

Janine Sieppert: (Rehabilitation Practitioner, Life Skills Coach, Stephen Minister and Grandmother) Since 2017, Janine has personally laid out the material and traced the bear pattern of nearly 12,000 bears; assisted in cutting them out, sewing and filling with new polyfill. Janine helps with deliveries and is the personal production and distribution record keeper of The Collectors. Janine also makes toques, has filled and finished 438 bears and prepared 2500 bears for sewing this year and sewn over 5000 bears since 2017.

Rod Sieppert: (Retired Heavy Equipment Operator, Retired Foreman of Public Works in Hanna, AB; Extraordinary Husband, Grandfather and Delivery Driver) The Collectors had individuals who could sew the bears but very few could align a face on the bears. Rod developed the pattern used to face the bears and after much coercion, agreed to help. He has faced just over 9,000 bears since 2017. Real men do face bears!

How a Collectors Bear is Made

Denise and Janine shop for or receive donations of fleece; all materials are washed. Sewing yarns are purchased, polyfill is ordered from Eastern Canada for the best price. The bears are marked on the material and a small team cuts them out. All bears are then matched and pinned together and stored until they are brought out to be faced by Rod Sieppert, Betty Lippert or Alberta Segouin. The faces are marked in chalk so it can be easily washed off and then sewn on. The sewn face may seem simplistic but it is the safest way to keep a child from harm; no plastic parts to scratch or suffocate. Also, when sent to underdeveloped countries, a parent has a better chance of repairing the bear with needle and thread than trying to find replacement eyes, nose or mouth parts. The bears are hand sewn 2/3rds around then filled and finished as needed. During Covid, The Collectors began sewing in January in preparation for the Christmas rush and to allow for early distribution so each organization had control over the storage of their own items. The Bears are one of the most expensive items to make as everything needs to be "like new" quality.

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Working with Our Community

Located on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Lethbridge Family Services is committed to honouring the land from a place of knowing. We honour the Siksikaitsitapi as both the traditional and current Land Keepers of this area, and we welcome all First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-Indigenous peoples who call Blackfoot territory their home.