It starts with a thin strand of thread, a bolt of fabric and a tiny needle, no bigger than an inch. With these three simple things, changing the odds is possible.
Making a blanket to keep a child warm, creating a flag to inspire a fledgling nation or in mentor Lorraine Petrozza’s case – teaching a new generation an invaluable skill they’ll carry with them through their lives.
“When we started, I don’t think they had even seen a needle and thread before,” Lorraine said with a laugh. “And I’m talking about some of the mentors too!”
Starting from scratch might have seemed daunting but Lorraine was determined.
“It was a big project so I came up with a simple applique pattern with hearts on it,” she explained. “The kids coordinated the colors and cut out the hearts. That was an easy start for them and I pinned the hearts down so they could visualize the end result.”
The project was an arduous one as the kids only got to spend an hour a week focused on the quilt and at that pace, Lorraine wondered if it would ever get completed but she made sure that every child got the chance to show off their skills by sewing a heart onto the quilt.
“Eventually, I got the sewing machine out and we worked on it together. They worked the presser and it was really an experience.”
Lorraine has always been crafty. Sewing since the sixth grade, she’s carried this passion with her throughout her life.
Her other passion? Working with children.
“I’ve been mentoring for ten years,” she said. “I started out with Hugs for Kids because I liked the name and that’s where I met Millie Ramos (mentoring coordinator for Highland Elementary).”
Creating the quilt mattered to Lorraine not just because it’s a hobby she enjoys but because of what the project represents.
“These kids might not ever make a quilt again but now, they know how to sew a button.”
Broadening horizons is one of the reasons Lorraine is so invested in being a mentor.
“That’s where I get my satisfaction,” she said. “When you first get started, you’re just two people who don’t know each other. But you go every week and you bring some of your own life into it. Some of the wisdom that you’ve picked up over the course of your life. You share your thoughts, your interests, your love, your family. “
Lorraine’s love of mentoring helped her get through some difficult times in her personal life.
“When my husband was really sick in the hospital, I made it a point to go to mentoring,” she said. “It took me out of the sick room and really connected me to the reality of life. Mentoring helped me through the pain and anguish I was going through at the time.”
Psychologist Michael Steger at the University of Colorado performed a study which asked the question – what makes people feel better: pleasure-seeking behavior or doing good? He polled 65 undergraduate students for three weeks and discovered that the more people participated in meaningful activities, the happier they were and the more purposeful their lives felt.
Well aware of the struggles of modern parenting, Lorraine is happy to help out wherever she can.
“Parents don’t have time to sit there and be a friend to their kids,” she said. “They’re so wrapped up in living and just trying to put food on the table. So, I feel blessed to share an hour or two with someone who would have otherwise been in front of the TV or the computer. “
Lorraine’s approach to mentoring echoes the way she lives her life.
“Just like anything else in life,” she said. “You keep at it and it’s so rewarding.”