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BEACON Senior News

Ribbons of tangible hope

May 30, 2018 07:38AM ● By C.J. Payton

Members of The Western Slope Ribbon Project display their creations representing what they hope will exist for future generations.

Just like many women of her day, Justine Merritt upheld the holiday tradition of sending out cards with greetings to loved ones every Christmas. In 1982, however, she shared a vision, suggesting that friends and family members each create a fabric panel that represented something they couldn’t bear to lose forever in the event of a nuclear war. She wished to tie the panels together with ribbons, as a symbol of unity and hope for peace.

Several loved ones fulfilled her request and sent panels.

An artist and embroiderer, Merritt felt a prayer for peace with every stitch. With help from a small but dedicated following, she calculated how many ribbons and panels it would take to wrap around the pentagon in Washington, DC. On August 4, 1985, thousands of ribbons, with panels created by artists around the country, enveloped not just the Pentagon, but several other buildings in Washington, DC.

Merritt, who called the Grand Valley home in the ’90s, continued to be involved in the project on an international level.

Karen Sjoberg, a friend of Merritt’s, resurrected the project locally. Now called the Tangible Hope project, supporters are reintroducing its mission through public and networking events, hoping to encourage others to get involved by creating fabric panels or by lending their time and talents in other beneficial ways.

Panels are easy to make—they can be created using pillowcases, ribbons and safety pins—and the project provides a limited set of technical instructions, as participants are encouraged to create from the heart. There are no aesthetic standards and no limits on the mediums used. Today’s panels should reflect what the contributor couldn’t bear to lose “through war, violence, destruction of the environment, etc.”

“Each panel represents a powerful story of what the maker cherishes and wants to ensure will be around for future generations,” Tangible Hope organizer Deb Allerton said.

Common themes include family, sports, nature, children and pets. Contributors are encouraged to title, sign and date the back of their panel and share a story that reveals its significance.

The project brings people together in many meaningful ways. Sherri Helms recently contacted STRiVE about creating panels for upcoming events and gave the organization precut blank fabric panels, markers and art supplies so residents could start creating. The Veterans Art Center also offers support, encouraging use of space and supplies.

Fredricka Banks recently created a panel she named “The Family of the Forest,” inspired by the movie “Fern Gully.” It denotes her gratitude for trees and the beauty of golden-dappled sunlight shining through them.

Contributors are invited to share their panels in upcoming events, such as the International Day of Peace. The project’s goal is to have enough ribbons to wrap around the Mesa County Central Library and extend to the federal building.

Allerton sees this project as “connecting people on a heart level as their divisions fade away.”

For more information about the project or creating a ribbon, call Helms at 314-7464 or email [email protected]. Keep up with events at

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