From October 2-4, 2020, the Fraser Valley Modern Quilt Guild – a guild of approximately 60 members who meet monthly in Abbotsford, BC – held our first ever virtual retreat. We had been planning for our 10th Anniversary retreat for more than a year and were terribly disappointed when COVID-19 hit and it looked like we would have to cancel. However, we are an industrious and determined group of quilters and were not willing to let a world-wide pandemic get in the way of our celebrations.
Our committee began meeting in the late spring and drew inspiration and lessons from the virtual retreat hosted by the Silicon Valley MQG in the spring of 2020. We met many times over approximately four months, either once or twice a month, via Zoom. Learning how to use Zoom and breakout rooms became a committee priority as we knew that our comfort level with the technology would directly impact the success of our event. We also provided opportunities for members to practice with us on Zoom so that there would be fewer technical questions to interrupt the retreat. Our guild had been holding Zoom meetings in place of our normal in-person meetings since April, as well as monthly and Friday night Zoom sew-ins, so the technology was not completely new to most of us.
A full schedule of events that would take us from 2 pm on Friday right through until 4 pm on Sunday was developed. The retreat was open all hours of the day and night for members to come and go, as schedules allowed, or to stay up all night sewing! We were incredibly excited to have 51 members join in for at least part of the weekend, including two who had moved to far flung reaches of our amazing country. One resourceful member created a special website for us to enable everyone to easily find our schedule, sponsors, activity links and the like: fvmqgretreat2020.godaddy sites.com.
Members were asked to pay a $25 registration fee and our guild contributed funds that had been dedicated to our 10th Anniversary celebration. Before the retreat, we had a drop-in time for members to pick up their swag bags which were stuffed with a variety of items including donations from sponsors, seam rippers, tweezers, Hawkins Cheezies (a Canadian tradition), a mini charm pack and chocolate (of course!). We worked hard to connect with local and national sponsors and they were incredibly generous, donating terrific items including fabric, gift cards, books and notions for both prizes and our swag bags. Guild members (some who had their own businesses and some who did not) also donated prizes. There were many opportunities for members to win terrific prizes for various activities as well as daily door prizes, which thrilled them to no end.
Included in each participant’s swag bag was an activity box. In addition to coupons, they contained information and supplies for a variety of activities including two different challenges to create blocks that will support our Community Quilt projects, Quilters Bingo, and a crossword puzzle to get to know fellow members. At the retreat, we featured yoga/stretch breaks, an exciting and fun pop-up shop, several different speakers, a project demo from a local online retailer, and more. Naturally, there were “happy hours” planned as one of our many social activities, which included recipes for various beverages. We even had a retreat scorecard so that participants could track their activities throughout the weekend and possibly win a prize! One of our most popular features was the use of breakout rooms for six to nine people so that we could chat and get to know each other better.
Following our retreat, we surveyed members to assess how things had gone and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We had members who had never been to retreat before and loved it, and seasoned members who enjoyed the benefits of not having to pack everything up or worry about forgetting things. One member created stunning cards to use for personalized sponsor thank you notes; we will continue to highlight them throughout the year at our virtual meetings and on social media.
There are a few minor things which we could change to make a future virtual retreat even better, but overall, we believe it was an unqualified success. If your guild is thinking about how to continue to meet or celebrate through the pandemic, we highly recommend going online. Many thanks to our retreat committee members for their time and effort ahead of time and throughout the weekend, to our Executive for supporting us in hosting this event, to our incredibly generous sponsors, and to our members, for being brave enough to try something new and for making it so much fun!
TRY THE FRASER VALLEY MQG PUMPKIN SPICE COFFEE
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Add 1/4 teaspoon per three cups of coffee when brewing.
Some members turned it into a latte but adding it to plain steamed milk is delicious too!