Quilters volunteer time, talent and fabric for veterans
On any given day, either in their home or in a group there are volunteers who are stitching together a quilt, not to keep for themselves, but to give away as a simple 'Thank You' to combat veterans who have devoted their lives to service to the United States.
Quilts of Valor was started by Catherine Roberts, a mother of an Iraq War soldier. The idea grew into a grass roots effort of quilters who decided to make quilts for all American war veterans, which soon spread across the county and abroad. So far QOV has pieced together almost 85,000 quilts, giving them to service men and women who have served in all American wars since World War II.
QOV's mission as stated on all programs is to honor and comfort all veterans touched by war, and they do.
The effort soon grew to Central Missouri. Penny Oswald of Boonville, Kathy Oglesbay of Prairie Home and Jan Hobbs of Columbia along with their husbands came together in 2011 to quilt for the QOV group in Columbia. After a Pilot Grove man received a quilt, the group decided to bring their efforts closer to home and focus on area service men. The small group now consist of six people and since 2011 they have collectively presented almost 80 quilts to veterans.
Oswald said when a veteran receives a quilt they are very thankful.
"Many of these veterans were never thanked for their service to this country. This is our opportunity to thank them," Oswald said.
Strict guidelines determine what sort of fabrics can be used for the quilts, which is usually donated or purchased by the individual making the quilt.
"The fabric must be 100 percent cotton, new and in good condition to be used for a quilt," Oswald said.
Once the tops are sowed together, usually with a patriotic pattern, a 'long arm' sewer will come in a stitch the entire quilt together.
For Oswald, it usually takes her a little over a week to complete one quilt. Once the quilts are finished, a process is taken to choose who will receive them.
When presenting the quilts to veterans, the ceremony begins with a short introduction and the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. Oswald said the veterans are touched when they receive a quilt.
Vietnam veteran Purple Heart recipient and local resident, Ted Bliel, received a quilt a week prior to Veterans Day last year and was very elated about it. He now has it placed in a prominent place in his bedroom.
"It was gratifying that people took an interest in me. I was very impressed with the quality of the work," Bliel said.
He said that 40 years ago the Vietnam War was not very popular and so the soldiers were never thanked for their service.
Many veterans have expressed the same pleasure after receiving a quilt.
One of the latest veterans to receive a quilt included Tom Fitzgerald who served in the Vietnam War like Bliel.
"I was very honored to receive the quilt. I also wanted to thank the women who spend their time and money to make these quilts," Fitzgerald said.
On April 17 quilts were given to veterans including Larry E. Bagby who was a specialist in the United States Army serving in Vietnam from 1971-72, Waylan N. Coley, private first class in the United States Marine Corps, John Ernst Jr. who was an E4 in the United States Army, Fitzgerald who was a specialist four in the United States Army, Donald W. Jenry who was an E4 in the United States Army, Travis R. Mann who was a corporal in the United States Army, Herbert Nauman who was a sergeant in the United States Army, Henry W. Oser who was a private first class in the United States Army and Herman H. Rhode who was a staff sergeant in the United States Army.
Oswald said volunteers are always needed to help stitch together quilts. It is recommended for individuals involved to go to qovf.org/ for further information.
"These quilts are stitched together with love, prayers and healing thoughts," she said.