Donna Brower and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)

Donna Brower and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, members of the Silver Swans – a quilting group of 12 ladies who meet at the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – with a mountain of masks they sewed. (Photo submitted by Julia Dawson)

Saanich quilting group nabs first prize in Volunteer BC photo contest

Silver Swans sewing club raised more than $12,000 for Swan Lake nature sanctuary

A group of Saanich sewers nabbed first prize in a photo contest for a shot of two members sitting among a mountain of masks that were later donated to the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Saanich.

On May 11, Volunteer BC announced the winners of their National Volunteer Week photo contest and the Silver Swans quilting group took top spot.

In 2020, the group of 12 put in more than 800 hours of volunteer time making masks to be sold at the Nature House gift shop, explained Julia Dawson, the coordinator of volunteers at the nature sanctuary. They managed to raise more than $12,000 for the organization that protects the wetland area around Swan Lake and the rocky forest atop Christmas Hill.

READ ALSO: Rules still apply regarding dogs, off-limits areas at Swan Lake, Christmas Hill

The Silver Swans typically sew quilts, aprons, totes and other projects to be sold at the Nature House gift shop, but “pivoted to making masks” at home during the pandemic, she said.

The ladies in the winning photo, Donna Brower and her daughter Carol Anne Penner, were referred to as the “mask elves” because they sewed a mountain of face coverings during a power sewing session over the holidays, Dawson said.

Penner and her mother were thrilled when they heard their photo won the contest.

Making all those masks was hard work, but it was a lot of fun to work together and know that the other Silver Swans were at home sewing away too, Penner said.

READ ALSO: Nominations now open for Saanich’s 21st annual Environmental Awards

They typically meet on the nature sanctuary property on Thursdays for coffee, sewing and socializing. After group gatherings were banned, the Silver Swans decided to start makings masks at home using all the fabric scraps they could find from past projects, she explained.

The group has made more than 1,000 masks in all different patterns, shapes and sizes – including ones for people with hearing aids – and are still sewing away. Donations of fabric, elastic and thread are welcome and can be delivered to the Nature House, Penner said.

The Silver Swans were awarded $150 upon winning the photo contest and hope to have a celebration once they’re allowed to meet in person safely.


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