Two men and a woman smile, holding up colorful quilts, behind them is a banner featuring the Jewish Social Services of Madison logo.

PBS Wisconsin Education and local quilters give new refugee neighbors warm welcome

January 22, 2024 Tara Lovdahl Leave a Comment

Whether they have called Wisconsin home for years or just days, PBS Wisconsin Education is a resource for all children. That’s the mission statement behind PBS Wisconsin Education’s Welcome Neighbor project, which collaborates with resettlement agencies and other community organizations in Wisconsin to find meaningful ways to welcome refugees to our state.

The start: a backpack filled with enrichment and learning items from PBS KIDS for recently resettled refugee children. In addition to giving children materials to be ready to learn in school, these backpacks will also contain a comfort item such as a plush toy or handmade quilt.

A man in a winter coat stands next to two piles of quilts on a counter, his hand on top of one of the quilts.

This past December, PBS Wisconsin Education distributed quilts to seven community partners: Catholic Charities of Green Bay, the ECDC Multicultural Center, Hanan Refugees Relief Group, the International Institute of Wisconsin, Jewish Social Services of Madison, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and World Relief Fox Valley.

Refugee children who receive these backpacks are adjusting to life in a new country as they recover from distressing situations and upheaval.

“This project helps meet just some of the critical needs faced by resettling families, but I think the most important aspect is the message of welcome and care these gifts convey to our new neighbors as they begin to settle in and make Wisconsin their new home,” says associate director of education Jen Kobylecky. “I can’t think of a better way to live out the inclusive values demonstrated in the fantastic programming we share through PBS KIDS, and it’s such an honor to be able to invite our viewers to be a part of offering that welcome.”

A woman standing outside in winter clothing, smiles as she holds a bag of quilts labeled, "Catholic Charities of Green Bay."

Community partners have identified quilts as particularly in-demand items. It’s a small thing that can make a child’s transition easier.

To help fill the backpacks with quilts, PBS Wisconsin Education partners with The Great Wisconsin Quilt Show, a community event co-hosted by PBS Wisconsin and Nancy Zieman Productions every September. Quilt Show organizers pivoted their annual Quilt to Give project to support the Welcome Neighbor project in 2022, and the collaboration has been a great success. Every day during The Great Wisconsin Quilt Show, volunteers and Quilt Show attendees helped PBS Wisconsin Education by donating their time to iron, cut, sew and quilt bed-size quilts for the Welcome Neighbor project.

As a result, the 2023 Quilt to Give community service project provided an outstanding 233 quilts for the Welcome Neighbor project. This could not have been a reality without the help of wonderful volunteers and Quilt Show attendees who were generous with their time during the three-day event. PBS Wisconsin Education also received dozens of heartfelt donations in the mail.

A woman smiles as she stands next to two piles of quilts set on chairs, labeled, "Hanan Refugees Relief Group."
If you would like to contribute to the Welcome Neighbor project

We accept quilt donations all year! There are easy-to-follow instructions on the Nancy Zieman Productions blog to make a bed-size quilt. Colorful, kid’s colors are encouraged, but we accept all quilts in good condition. Please mail them to:

The Nancy Zieman Sewing Studio
120 Front Street
Beaver Dam WI 53916

A woman smiles holding a baby, a packet of documents and a quilt with a "Clifford the Big Red Dog" pattern on it.

Thank you to our community partners

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Resettlement agencies:

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay
ECDC Multicultural Community Center
Hanan Refugees Relief Group
International Institute of Wisconsin
Jewish Social Services of Madison
Love INC of Sheboygan County
Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan/Refugee Resettlement
World Relief Wisconsin

Featured image: A quilt delivery to Jewish Social Services of Madison. Photo courtesy of PBS Wisconsin Education.
Image 1: Quilt delivery at International Institute of Wisconsin
Image 2: A quilt delivery to Catholic Charities of Green Bay
Image 3: Hanan Refugee Relief Group
Image 4: Quilt pick up at International Institute of Wisconsin

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