Delivering comfort to wounded warriors
Piece by piece, stitch by stitch, quilt by quilt - a local group of quilters volunteered their talents over the last 18 months to deliver comfort to the country's wounded soldiers.
Five local women from the Honor Quilts organization recently joined forces with quilters from Fergus Falls, Perham, Dent and Underwood to sew and hand-deliver 950 Quilts of Valor (QOV) to injured soldiers at Fort Knox and Fort Campbell.
Georgia Thesing of Osakis was one of the women who helped craft and deliver the quilts to wounded soldiers.
"It was emotionally uplifting and emotionally draining at the same time. It warmed your heart to realize what was happening... and just knowing what they'd gone through and the different stories they shared... it did make you want to come home and sew twice as hard and work twice as hard so that you could get even more [quilts] down to [the soldiers] because they were so appreciative and so deserving," Thesing said.
The Honor Quilts group made 140 of the 950 quilts. Local quilters Sharon Dimberg, Pat Cooms, Karen Johnson and Vicki Satterlie-Foshaug also went along to deliver quilts to soldiers.
On April 27 in Underwood, 37 quilters boarded a big bus emblazoned with the words "Quilts of Valor - Comforting our wounded soldiers one quilt at a time."
Also on board were nearly 1,000 handcrafted quilts carefully packed into dozens of bundles, destined to deliver comfort.
The American Legion in Underwood hosted a fundraiser to pay for the bus that transported the quilts to the soldiers. The women who traveled along paid for their own hotel stays and food.
This trip was all about getting those quilts to the wounded warriors.
"The town of Underwood turned out en masse to send us off," Thesing said. "The pastor blessed the quilts and his talk was beautiful."
The pastor said, "These quilts of valor, and you quilters too, will reach out and touch those men and women of courage. You will deliver and place your labors of love into the scarred hands and around the bent shoulders of wounded veterans. Now we know that these quilts will delight the eyes of those veterans, but even more they will calm the hearts of those who have suffered hurt on our behalf. Sisters and brothers, today we seek God's blessings as we dedicate these quilts to the glory of God, and the good of God's people in need."
From Underwood, the bus was escorted by the Patriot Guard through the Twin Cities.
"That was just impressive to see,"Thesing said. "We gave [the Patriot Guard] a donation and they said they didn't want it; we should put the money toward another quilt."
SOLDIERS CHOOSE THEIR QUILTS
The group arrived and distributed quilts at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on April 29 and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on May 1.
Hundreds of quilts in every color and pattern imaginable were laid out on tables for the soldiers to choose from.
"They got to pick out their quilts," Thesing explained. "One young man came in and said, 'I want one that looks like my grandma would make it. She used to make quilts and I want to remember her.' So he went through and found one and said, 'This one looks like my grandma made it.' It was a sweet thing to see."
For some of the soldiers it was too overwhelming to choose so the women helped them. Did they like wildlife? What was their favorite color? The ladies knew just the quilt to recommend for that soldier.
"Our main goal when we were there was to make them feel comfortable and let them know they are so much appreciated. So we tried to shake hands with as many as we could or give them a hug," she said. "I know a lot of us felt like we just wanted to hug them all to let them know they're in a safe place."
After a soldier chose their quilt, their name and the date was written on the tag sewn onto each quilt. Their gift also included a handmade pillow case and handwritten thank you card.
The soldiers were incredibly gracious and very thankful, Thesing said.
In all, the women handed out about 300 quilts directly to soldiers. The remaining quilts went to Army chaplains or reintegration offices that soldiers will pass through.
Details and photos of the trip were documented on a blog (qovmission.blogspot.com) and it was noted how humble the soldiers were.
"The soldiers find it hard to believe that we have brought these quilts from Minnesota to give to them without expecting payment. We continue to assure them that it is a privilege to be able to thank them in this small way for all they do for us," the blog noted. "It was not uncommon for a soldier to be more worried that a buddy that was gone wasn't going to get a quilt than if he got one. These men and women are loyal to each other."
One soldier shared that he had received a quilt when he was first injured and was in the hospital but had since worn it out with use; he said he was so happy to have a new quilt to use as a cover.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT A QUILT?
So what is it about a quilt that brings so much comfort?
"For me, it's all the love that went into making them," Thesing said. "Anytime I make a quilt, I'm thinking about the person I'm making it for, whether they're sick or it's their birthday or they're celebrating a wedding. It's the love that goes into every stitch. I tell people they need to keep quilts out because that warmth doesn't belong in a drawer. [The quilt] should be out to see and the love that it brings back to you is phenomenal. That's why I quilt, because it is such a good way to show love."
JOIN THE EFFORT
The Honor Quilts group is already getting to work on the next batch of quilts that will make their way to injured members of the military.
"We need all sorts of people to come and help us, whether they've got machines and can help us sew binding on, or help us start making a quilt or sew backings. If they want to cut, they can cut kits," Thesing said.
She added, "We always say if someone knows the hot side of an iron, they're more than welcome to come over because we will have a job for them. And it's a fun day of getting together."
Honor Quilts meets the first Thursday of the month at 9 a.m. at Community Vacuum and Sewing Center, 1321 Broadway in Alexandria. Everyone is welcome.
In addition, the chapter is in need of donations. Money, fabric and materials would be appreciated. All monetary donations go to buying fabric and materials for the quilts.
On average, it takes about 40 hours and can cost $70 to $100 to make just one quilt.
To learn more about Honor Quilts, contact Georgia Thesing at (320) 859-4781. Donations may be sent to: Honor Quilts, Georgia Thesing, 830 Calvary Road SE, Osakis, MN 56360.