Sixteen patriotic quilts were folded neatly and stacked on a table outside The Residency at Northfield Retirement Communities on Monday, June 14. However, there was more to these quilts than their patriotic nature. Each was cut, stitched, pressed and quilted by hand and has a special label on the back designating them Quilts of Valor.
These quilts were given individually to sixteen veterans at The Residency by the Panhandle Blocks Quilts of Valor group, which started in 2018 and has given out over 400 Quilts of Valor to Panhandle veterans. The Quilts of Valor Foundation spans across the United States and a few other countries with 10,000 members and has honored over 273,000 veterans in every branch of service.
On Monday, sixteen more “veterans touched by war” were added to the count and received “comforting and healing Quilts of Valor,” which is the foundation’s mission.
Before wrapping the veterans in their quilts, Panhandle Blocks leader Kathy Dye took the stand to thank the veterans on behalf of all the quilters, family, friends and the nation for their service to their country.
“Gentlemen, we thank you for your service,” she said addressing the veterans at the ceremony. “We thank you for being willing to leave your homes and your family and all the things that you hold dear, being willing to stand in harm’s way to protect and defend our country and our flag. We know that freedom isn’t free, and we have it today because of you and men and women like you, who are willing to stand up and answer the call.”
Dye went on to describe the significance of the quilts — making clear that they are more than a blanket. Quilts are made with three layers: the top is made of unique colors, shapes and designs to signify the different individuals and communities that are grateful for the veterans’ service; the middle layer, or batting, adds extra warmth and comfort, which is the main goal of the foundation; and the back layer is the support, which Dye said is meant to “remind us of the strength and the support of you, our veterans, and the strength and support of our country is held together by a whole bunch of stitches.”
She continued: “We say those stitches represent our thanks, our thoughts, our prayers and sometimes, even the tears of the makers.”
Each quilt was also given a unique label to identify the veteran it belongs to, the quilters who made it, and the date and location of where it was presented.
Kenneth L. Johnson, a Navy-Marine Crop Air Station veteran lieutenant who served a year in Japan and a year in southern California, said the ceremony was touching for him, especially because of the maker of his quilt.
“It was a real honor,” he said. “The person who made my quilt is married to my cousin — Christy Anderson is married to Rick Anderson, and Rick is my cousin, so it was special.”
That’s the goal of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, Dye said — to make veterans feel loved and cared for through these beautiful quilts.
“We want you to use your quilts, and every time you use them, we want you to feel the love and the appreciation that has been sewn into every seam,” she said. “Because I can promise you that’s exactly what’s there.”
Quilts are pieced, quilted and bounded by volunteer members of the Quilts of Valor group, and supplies are purchased through donations, memorials, grants or out-of-pocket by volunteers. Other quilters can also make Quilts of Valor for family members and work with the Panhandle Blocks group to get their quilt labeled, presented and reported to the Quilts of Valor Foundation properly.