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Making Memories Last Forever

by Gideon Grudo
Wednesday Apr 25, 2012

It's about a tribute for someone - stitching loved ones into collective memories.

The Miami Beach Community Health Center wants people to join in and help it create panels for a quilt. Each panel will be designed to commemorate someone who's passed because of HIV/AIDS. At an April 28 workshop, the health center will host and run a workshop where people can learn how to make the panels. People are encouraged to come and pay homage to their loved ones, whether it's a mother, father, friend or anyone else who is both loved and lost. It's called Making Memories - and its purpose is intuitive.

The panels created will become a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt from the NAMES Project in Atlanta, Ga. The quilt began in 1987 as a way to remember those lost to the disease and celebrate their lives. Eight individual quilts, also called panels, are sewed together to create a block. Some panels honor just one individual while others honor many. More than 90,000 panels have been handed over to the quilt. The last full display of it took place in 1996 at The National Mall in Washington D.C.

The upcoming workshop is one of eight that the center ran (and will run) in 2012. The idea is to gather as many panels as possible until Dec. 1 when the center will put the panels together into quilts. The quilts will then circulate the country, hang up at galleries and serve their purpose starting on World AIDS Day.

"Part of the idea is to interview the employees. This is a personal tribute to remember those patients," said Jose Ortega, the vice president of HIV/AIDS Services at the health center. "They are going to be able to create their own piece of a quilt panel. It's like occupational therapy."

Ortega emphasized, too, that the event is open to anyone who's interested in coming. He's been with the health center for 10 years and said this is one of the greatest events he's been happy to create there.

"We want everyone to know what we're doing," Ortega said. "Everyone is welcome."

The quilt's tour is also a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt project. The organization holds this annual tour as part of Through the Eyes of Love. At first, the panels were all done in-house, but demands and requests from the community resulted in these workshops. According to spokesman for the event, Michael Goodman, the public will make 3-foot by 6-foot panels. The foundation will put several together to make a 12-foot by 12-foot panel.

"What's neat about is that someone in Wisconsin might get a panel from Miami or California," Goodman said. "If you make a panel, it'll be shown around the country - it's a real tribute for someone."

Local resident Brad Gamble works out of the project's Atlanta office and helps to coordinate events in the Sunshine State. Gamble said the quilts will make it all over the country and, eventually, the world.

"The power of remembering those that we have lost and to also give a message - to never give up - is tremendous," he said. "This reminds our government that there's still a crisis and that people still die."

Panel making, Gamble said, is a coping mechanism for those with grief or anger over losing someone. It could be an integral step in the process of healing.

"If you let your shield down, you're exposing yourself to a lot of feelings," Gamble said about working around tragedy day in and day out. "For those of us in the field, it's hard."
At a time that many health centers are merging with each other or, worse yet, shutting down. Gamble said it's nice to see an event like this workshop taking place at a local center.

Visit for more information.

Panel up!


Saturday, April 28, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (and every fourth Saturday of the month until October)


Miami Beach Community Health Center
11645 Biscayne Blvd, Suite 207
Miami, FL 33181

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