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FACE TO FACE: ‘Reaching the lost and reshaping lives’

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FELICITY DARVILLE

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Dr Flossie Mae Cooper.

By FELICITY DARVILLE

AS QUEEN Elizabeth II enjoys her Platinum Jubilee, one group in The Bahamas is commemorating the occasion in a special way. The Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild is hosting a “Service of Thanksgiving in Recognition of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee” this Thursday at 11am at The New Lively Hope Baptist Church. This is a joyous occasion for a guild of men and women, many of whom have been serving the community together for decades.

Dr Flossie Mae Cooper (nee Moss), current president, lovingly describes her journey of selfless service with the Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild, which began when she joined 45 years ago.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

“When I joined, I was energetic. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the fine dining, the warm hearts and giving back to the community. The elderly ladies who invited me to join, encouraged me. They were as much of a blessing to me as I was to them. They were passing on wisdom to me and I was physically able to help them distribute more of their handiwork because I was younger.”

Back then, it was known as the Queen Mary’s Bahamas Clothing Guild. Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild is one of the United Kingdom’s oldest charities, founded in 1882. Guilds are now located all over the world. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, became the Royal Patron of the guild and served with dignity and love until the time of her death.

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FLOSSIE Mae Cooper standing next to former Governor General Lady Marguerite Pindling (fourth from right) with members of the Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild at Government House.

They are known for making quality, hand crafted items for those in need, including: everyday wear garments; scarves and tams to keep warm in the winter; beautifully designed household linens; newborn baby items; and warm and cozy bedding. The guilds build a network with other charitable organisations in each country where they exist. Through this network, they try to meet the needs of the community by giving these items, made by their hands, to the various charities, which provide for those in need.

The Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild (QMCG) thrive because members enjoy spending time together. It’s so much more than just making fine personal and household items. Throughout the years, Apostle Flossie Mae gained many lifelong skills for the hands and the heart. She loves to crochet, and so her personal contributions often come in the form of hats and tams for all ages. But she has also learned the value of friendship, appreciation for national service, the art of fine dining and good deportment, and overall self-development.

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GOVERNOR General Sir CA Smith, centre, viewing handicrafts made by Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild at Government House.

She had a gang of big sisters, if you will, watching over her and helping her blossom into a woman who is now a church leader with a PhD in Chrsitian Counselling, a wife and mother, and current President of the Guild. Its purpose has been to support those most in need. They are powered by knowing that the gift of new clothing and bedding provides warmth and comfort, helping to restore dignity and self-respect.

Under Flossie Mae’s leadership, the Guild consists of at least 50 active members, 150 students from various schools who make up the Junior League, and a host of volunteers who help to distribute the garments all over The Bahamas.

Guild members usually held their monthly meetings at Government House. But two setbacks have resulted in a hiatus from using that venue. Initially, the building was undergoing renovations. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Flossie Mae and her colleagues resorted to regular zoom calls to keep each other inspired and to show off their handiwork. Through the support of volunteers, they were still able to get the goods out to the various charities who were active during the pandemic.

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MEMBERS of the Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild during their first in person meeting since the onset of the pandemic.

Now that restrictions continue to be lifted, the group meets at various restaurants until they can return to their beloved Government House and continue serving the community, the way the Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild has done worldwide for centuries.

Less restrictions also mean that the guild could continue its work to build a thriving Junior League. The QMCG was approved by the Ministry of Education to be attached to the Family and Consumer Science after school programme. They launched the junior league in a number of high schools in the country. The students are involved in volunteerism and they learn or are able to improve their creative skills in needlework, sewing, crocheting.

Students have made beautiful patchwork quilts and newborn clothing, including onesies, pyjamas and blankets. The aim is to source the best materials so the receiver feels they have truly been given a gift. In the case of newborns, this material must be soft and dye-free, among other requirements. The junior league includes young ladies as well as young men. The aim is to create entrepreneurs, give students hands-on experience; increase awareness in effective communication and practical skills; and create an atmosphere where students can grow, share, care and learn to be self-sufficient.

Flossie Mae says members are only able to produce the best quality gifts because of sponsors - individual and corporate, who help to provide the materials needed. Their time and skills are free.

“As we embark on this new journey, note that the goals ahead are many,” she said.

“However, some of our immediate goals are the purchasing of materials and resources, salaries and life-long mentoring support. All of these will help us to continue our mantra - reaching the lost and reshaping lives.”

“The budget for this project is astronomical, hence we are calling on persons in the community along with friends and well wishers of our organisation to assist by helping to alleviate the cost. Your contributions will go a long way in helping us meet our targeted goal.”

She invited the general public to Thursday’s thanksgiving service at New Lively Hope Baptist Church, 23 Jerome Avenue and Chesapeake Road. You can find them on Facebook as Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild or call Dr Cooper at 809-0629.

Crocheting with the QMCG has been a source of great comfort for Flossie Mae, giving her something positive to pour her energy into. It has helped her through the good times, as well as some of the most difficult times in her life.

She and her husband, Pastor Jeffrey Cooper, along with their children and extended family took a hard blow when they lost their son, Pilot Frahkan Cooper. He was a well-loved, vibrant young man with a great career ahead of him. He was co-piloting with Captain Stanley Thurston through a rainstorm when their plane crashed with Dr Myles Munroe pastor and motivational speaker, and founder of Bahamas Faith Ministries International Fellowship. Everyone died in that crash - nine in total, including senior pastor and wife of Dr Myles, Ruth Munroe, and senior vice president and pastor Richard Pinder. It was a tragedy the entire nation felt.

Flossie Mae found solace in God’s word and learned to let go of her pain by crocheting for the Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild.

“I find comfort in crocheting,” she told me.

“It helps increase my mental capacity. (When Frahkan passed away) I spent half my day just crocheting. It helped me mentally to bring a balance to the hurt, pain and loss a mother goes through.”

“I encourage people if they are going through stress, anger, a loss or grief, being a part of an organisation that deals with handicraft is very therapeutic and gives you the opportunity to stay on top of the water.”

“This pandemic allowed us to dig deep into our pockets, stay on our knees and to reach out to many people,” she added.

“Because of this pandemic, there are hearts that have become hardened. There are hurting hearts, broken hearts. There are so many out of work, so many homeless. Our commitment is to serve God, our country and our fellowmen. We are grateful for the outpouring of service and donations. We need your prayers, we need more members, including men, and we need more donations to continue to thrive.”

Flossie Mae is the fourth Bahamian president of the Guild. Former presidents include: Naomi Pinder (1997-2009); Ann Beas (2009-2012); Calliope Maillis (2012-2018) and Flossie Mae Cooper (2018-present). Some of those guiding sisters in her life are still alive and serve as advisors for the Guild. They have close affiliations with a number of charities in the Bahamas. Among them, The Ranfurly Homes for Children. It was created out of an urgent need and crisis.

In the mid-1950s, downtown Nassau experienced a devastating fire. During the aftermath and clean up, Lady Hermoine Ranfurly, wife of the then-Governor-General, the Earl of Ranfurly, discovered a group of homeless children sleeping in cardboard boxes in buildings and alleys near the burnt buildings. Lady Ranfurly was moved by what she saw and used her local and international contacts to make a change. Together with the Queen Mary’s Sewing Guild (now the Queen Mother’s Bahamas Clothing Guild), Lady Ranfurly began galvanising worldwide support for the creation of a home. Just six months after securing a spacious property on Mackey Street with room for children to play under the shade of poinciana and sapodilla trees, the patrons and caregivers at Ranfurly welcomed the first residents into their full-time care.

It’s relationships like these that the guild is seeking to continue to make in this country. In addition to sharing their handiwork, they offer hearts full of love and joy to those they meet. Flossie Mae has found a way to give back, not only by pastoring with her husband and pouring out her love on her family, she has also become an author to help share her love around the world. She is a motivational speaker, former educator, and chairman and founder of The Bahamas National Allied Health Provider Association. Her latest book “Let It Go” is designed to help those who feel unspeakable grief from the loss of a loved one, find their voice and let go of the pain, replacing it with service to humanity.

Comments

JokeyJack 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I celebrated the Jubilee too. I had some rice leftover from the night before and my neighbor was kind enough to share her can of corned beef with me.

We put them together with some leftover ketchup packets from the place on the corner and man we did eat good !!

Long live the Queen !!!

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