Local quilters sew up support for injured soldiers
Every second Thursday of the month a group of women meets in a second story room at Quilter's Haven. They sit at their sewing machines among colorful spools of fabric and talk about their hobby or the weather or whatever but diligently they stick to the task at hand.
Although most of the women who participate would probably be quilting anyway, the quilts the group makes bring warmth and comfort to a special group of people who need it -- wounded soldiers.
Quilter's Haven owner Jean Graham said the group, which is led by volunteers Janet Thompson and Judy Leshovsky, donate the quilts to Veterans Affairs hospitals through a national program called Quilts of Valor. The program works to get quilts to all soldiers who have been wounded in the line of duty who want one.
According to the Quilts of Valor web site more than 15,000 soldiers and their families have received quilts.
Through Quilter's Haven about 60 quilts have been donated over the past year. Thompson said 14 more will go soon.
Quilting is an involved process that takes talent and time. Thompson said between 20 and 40 hours go into each quilt.
While the group does make quilts on its own, it also relies on donations. The group takes in quilts in a variety of forms. Some people donate partially completed quilts that the group finishes. Others donate fabric to the group to make quilts from scratch. Some donate completed quilts.
To meet the Quilts of Valor standards the quilts must be at least 50" x 60", the size of a full sized bed. In addition, each piece must be made either by hand or by machine and has to include washing instructions and a pillowcase.
Most of the group's efforts go into finishing partially made quilts. Often people donate the tops -- the pretty, patterned piece people like to see. In that case the quilts have to be quilted, the stitching that holds the top and backing together, and bound, the edging around the piece.
Thompson and Leshovsky coordinate volunteers to get the work done. A lot of the work is done during the group's Thursday meeting but some take projects home as well.
Attendance at the group meeting ranges from month to month. Thompson said they have had as few as three volunteers and as many as 10. Thompson and Leshovsky do a good bit of the grunt work themselves.
"We don't have any trouble finding people do to the work," Thompson said.
When completed the quilts find themselves in the care of wounded soldiers. Although for a while the quilts were going all over the country, they now mostly go to Minnesota soldiers.
A few of the quilt makers have heard from the recipients of the quilts. A young fellow named Josh who was injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan sent a thank you note.
"It was really neat to hear from him," said Graham.
So why go through all the hassle to help people they don't even know? Because, Thompson said, even if you don't agree with the war, wounded soldiers deserve respect and appreciation.
"We are always looking for something we can do," Graham said. She said Quilter's Haven helps several other charities including the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Create a Smile, which helps poor children with cleft palates receive medical attention.
Thompson said they will continue to make quilts for wounded soldiers as long as there is a need and willing volunteers to do it. However she said she hopes the needs is coming to an end.
"I hope we work ourselves right out of a job," Thompson added.
For more information on Quilts of Valor visit www.qovf.org. For more information on Quilter's Haven or how to get involved with its Quilts of Valor group visit www.quiltershavenmn.com or call 651-322-7071.