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Quilters send troops love, thanks from home

December 21, 2012

Calico Quilt chairperson Margi Duffy holds a friendship star patterned quilt which has already been sent to U.S. military hospital facilities as part of the Quilts of Valor Foundation program. Photo by Marty Voght

Local quilters once again covered the nation’s troops with love from home by sending another Quilts of Valor care package to soldiers overseas.
Several members of the Calico Quilters Guild recently made quilts for wounded service members being treated at an Army base in Germany as part of their desire to let the troops know people at home still care.
The quilters have been providing this service for more than a decade.
“We started in ’02 with the invasion in Afghanistan and we never imagined we would still be doing it. Some of us have grown old,” said Guild member Marty Voght, letting her words trail off. “There was a period in Iraq when the demand was incredible with thousands (of troops) behind the lines.”
Each year, the nationwide Quilts of Valor Foundation chooses a destination. Once a batch of quilts is completed, Calico Quilters Guild Chairperson Margi Duffy sends a request-to-mail to the foundation. The request must also specify the number of quilts and the pattern themes, which might be branch of military, gender-specific or patriotic, i.e., red, white and blue, she added.
The guild’s latest Quilts of Valor shipment was sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. Army facility in Germany.
Calico Quilters received an official letter of gratitude that extended Landstuhl personnel’s “most heartfelt thanks … It is always a delight to see the smiles on our soldiers when they are given a quilt of their very own to keep (that) symbolizes the love and appreciation that’s coming from home … Many military and government dignitaries and celebrities who come to visit our patients … have expressed their appreciation for the program and the indisputably positive impacts of your kindness for the support you devote to our women and men in service,” states the Oct. 25 letter.
“The stories that come out of it make us want to quilt all the more. (The soldiers) are so touched that they are still remembered here at home, they fall to their knees,” said Duffy.
Creating the Quilts of Valor is a true labor of love, a year-round “informal, cooperative venture,” said Voght, that involves many of the guild’s 70 members; many of the quilts are the result of group efforts and some are even individual efforts.
Throughout the year, the quilters make blocks of red, white and blue at home which they bring to meetings, explained Voght. Some quilters then create the tops, others sew the three-layered quilts together and others bind them.
“We have foundation guidelines,” explained Duffy. Each quilt must be 50 by 60 inches, made of 100 percent top-quality cotton and bear a “From Calico Quilters Guild” label. Finally, Duffy makes sure they are free of lint, threads and hair before shipping them off. Upon arrival, added Duffy, the quilts are blessed by military chaplains.
The Quilt of Valor Foundation website suggests “block patterns we can use but it’s our choice,” said Duffy. Voght added, “We have made specific block patterns at times. At one time, we did a lot of friendship star patterns.” On occasion, the quilters will receive a request for a gender-specific pattern since some of the soldiers are women, so “sometimes we send something flowery.”
The Calico artisans also make a presentation bag for each quilt so the troops have something to put their personal possessions in as they transition from one hospital to another. Duffy said that a Round Valley School sewing group joined in last year, donating additional presentation bags.
The guild participates in good quilting deeds at home, too. Voght listed a few: a Slim Princess quilt for Laws Railroad Museum’s 150th anniversary; an annual scholarship for Bishop Union High School students; baby quilts sent, ongoingly, to Camp Pendleton Marines’ children; Mule Days quilt show every two years; and children’s quilts and canvas bookbags for the Altrusa jamboree.
“We try to be more than just a group of women who get together to sew. We try to be a service organization,” said Voght.
“Since the inception (of our participation in Quilts of Valor), we have sent over 250 quilts which is quite amazing considering how small a group we are,” said Duffy. “As long as we are at war, we are still quilting. We would love to not have to, though, because that would mean all our soldiers are home and safe.”
For more information, contact Duffy at (760) 873-6147.

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