How a Seamstress and Her Niece Changed CVT's Volunteer Program | The Center for Victims of Torture

How a Seamstress and Her Niece Changed CVT's Volunteer Program

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

“I can make anything!” says Christine Bornhofer, a self-described sewing philanthropist from Waukesha, Wisconsin. “I inherited my mother’s sewing skills. I started sewing when I was ten, made my own wedding dress and own six sewing machines. If one breaks, it won’t stop me.”

Christine currently uses her stitching skills to benefit clients at CVT. Her niece, Danielle Duport, discovered the organization five years ago. ”I grew up in Minneapolis, but never knew CVT existed,” Danielle explained during a recent visit to CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center. “I was researching nonprofits in the area, and immediately connected with CVT’s mission. Other organizations had a much broader scope. With CVT, it was easier to see where my time and efforts would go.”

Danielle contacted CVT’s volunteer director, Beth Wickum, to learn more about volunteer opportunities and client needs. Beth mentioned that clients suffering from chronic pain often use microwaveable heating packs filled with rice to alleviate discomfort. Since Christine is “magic” with anything sewing related, Danielle knew immediately that a rice pack was something her aunt could make. That’s when the project, she said, became a “runaway train.”

Christine was getting ready for a weekend away in La Crosse, Wisconsin, when Danielle approached her about the rice packs. Enraptured by the idea, she told her niece, “Tell you what. Come to La Crosse. I’ll bring my sewing kit, you bring the rice.”

Danielle picked up a bulk bag of rice, drove to La Crosse and set up an assembly line in her aunt’s hotel room. It was a family affair. One person sewed, another relative dumped the rice, another serged the seams. They started at 9 p.m. and finished at 2 a.m. The following day, Danielle and Christine packed all 50 rice packs into boxes for a special delivery to CVT.

The donated rice packs now play an invaluable role in clients’ pain management treatment plans. “Clients have also expressed appreciation for the quality and thoughtfulness of the rice packs,” notes Kathleen O’ Donnell Burrows, CVT’s mental health partnerships project manager. “They’re grateful for the volunteers’ time and feel supported in their treatment.”

The rice packs are a consumable product, which means they don’t last forever. CVT recently requested another shipment, and this time, Christine was ready. She rummaged through the bolts of fabric she keeps at home in her sewing room, and decided on ten yards of drapery fabric she’d found on sale at a local craft store. “Flannel works really well too,” she explains, “as long as it’s 100% cotton, not polyester. When you put them in the microwave, you don’t want them to burn.”

16 hours and 80 pounds later, Christine and Danielle drove to CVT’s St. Paul Healing Center with another shipment of 50-plus handmade rice packs. “We whipped ‘em up!” Christine exclaimed, and acknowledged that she already looks forward to creating the next batch.

The design of her rice packs are unique in that each one sports an attached handle, and future packs, she suggests, could be embroidered. “I could stitch them with letters, like CVT--or maybe HTA!” When asked what the letters stood for, Christine laughed, and referenced three of CVT’s primary focus areas, “Healing, training, advocacy.”

Of course!

Photo from left: Danielle Duport and her aunt, Christine Bornhoffer, pose with some of their recently made rice packs.

By Sabrina Crews, CVT marketing communications specialist


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