Bringing Comfort and Offering Thanks: Quilts of Valor
The Fourth of July is just around the corner and in between the barbecues and fireworks, many of us stop to give thanks to those who have helped make this celebration of freedom possible. As a daughter of a U.S. Marine, I’m well aware of just how much members of our military give. They leave their families and travel to unfamiliar lands, often putting themselves in harm’s way, live in challenging conditions for months and sometimes years at a time, and endure the difficult transition to civilian life. And many, of course, give much, much more.
Photos taken at a Quilt of Valor homecoming celebration in Salem, Oregon
One organization dedicated to recognizing these contributions is the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Founded in the sewing room of Catherine Roberts in 2003, the group to date has given nearly 87,000 quilts to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been wounded and/or in combat. Roberts, who originally started the foundation in recognition of her son Nathanel’s yearlong deployment to Iraq, wanted to connect those who piece tops with longarm quilters and to coordinate distribution of finished quilts. Today, Quilts of Valor (QOV) are passed along through military hospital staff members, military chaplains, and others. Entire service units returning from combat may be presented with Quilts of Valor, and they are also given to veterans whose service was decades ago—in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam. (Quilts of Valor also has chapters in the United Kingdom and Canada.)
Susan Gordon, the QOV destination coordinator, has participated in quilt-presentation ceremonies. “It just grabbed my heart,” she says of the opportunity to volunteer with the Quilts of Valor Foundation. “Here was a way that I could use an interest I have to honor people for their service, thank them for their sacrifice, and offer them comfort. Nobody comes back from war the same as when they went—whether they have wounds you can see or not.”
Susan says the organization gets thank you notes from those who distribute the quilts. “Through these notes I’ve learned that injured men and women are often wrapped in their Quilts of Valor when they transfer them from military hospitals in Germany to the U.S.,” says Susan. “I’ve also learned that some service members receive their Quilt of Valor at the same time they receive their Purple Heart.”
While many Quilts of Valor participants are seasoned quilters, the organization strives to bring new quilters into the fold through their Under Our Wings program. Quilt shop owners can sign up to link newbies with experienced quilters, and individuals can also sign up to serve as coaches.
In 2011, Moda allied itself with the Quilts of Valor Foundation when, along with designers Polly Minick and Laurie Simpson, the company donated its royalties for 15 fabrics in the Minick and Simpson Bar Harbor line to Quilts of Valor. The Minick and Simpson Stars and Bars pattern was also made available and they encouraged Quilts of Valor sew-ins at quilt shops.
Minick and Simpson’s Bars and Stars
In addition, as part of a program organized by Marianne Fons, Moda created the Just One Star Challenge to coordinate the creation of 100 quilts in 100 days, and asked quilters to stitch red, white, and cream star blocks, each one signed with the maker’s name and state. They were hoping to get 1,800 blocks. Instead, they got 15,000.
When the blocks arrived at Moda, each block maker’s information was logged into a database and the blocks were pressed and trimmed, then sent to quilt shops, guilds, and other volunteers for finishing. Moda staff members did their part as well, and they met their 100-quilt goal. You can see some of the finished quilts here.
Just One Star quilts finished and ready for distribution
The remaining blocks were sent to Quilts of Valor, where they were parceled out to quilters. “The blocks were signed by people in New York, in Washington State, in New Hampshire, all over,” says Susan. “Those quilts are so wonderful, because being wrapped in one is like being hugged by the whole country.”
If you’d like to offer your thanks to a service member with a quilt, you can get started by visiting the Quilts of Valor website. There you can learn about appropriate Quilts of Valor materials, dimensions, fabrics, and patterns, as well as how to get join a Quilts of Valor sewing group.