Local quilters on a mission

Published 10:39 am Thursday, October 9, 2008

Every Wednesday morning members of Dorcas Circle assemble in a room at First Congregational Church (UCC) to tie another quilt.

The routine is interrupted only for another important church function that temporarily supersedes tying quilts.

It’s important work, and the demand is growing.

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They are making Quilts of Valor.

The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover all war wounded and injured service members and veterans whether physical or psychological wounds with Quilts of Valor.

“This foundation is not about politics. It’s about people,” is how Catherine Roberts, founder of the project, describes the work.

The QOV Foundation offers numbers to support its work: Iraq (as of 10/03/08): Killed: 4,177 | Wounded: Many | Quilts Awarded: 16,383 Afghanistan: Killed: 609| Wounded: Many.

There is no number for the quilts awarded to veterans of the Afghanistan war because of the over-lapping of service in both conflicts by American veterans.

First Congregational Church’s Dorcas Circle will keep on quilting as long as it can, members said.

The circle, comprised of all women, has tied more than 100 quilts to-date. It’s a new record.

A visit to the church Wednesday morning (Oct. 8) heard the Dorcas Circle members tell how important the QOV project is to them.

They have six sewing machines donated by church members and the woman they credit for originating the idea is Donna Myers.

“I saw an article in a quilting magazine that promoted the Quilts of Valor and I thought it was a good idea for us to try,” Myers said.

The quilters, numbering 12 or 13 at the most, also tie quilts for nursing home residents and infant members of the church. Also, quilts go to the local Habitat For Humanity affiliate and the Ronald McDonald House, Rochester.

They have been tying QOV quilts since 2005.

“Our membership is fluid,” Judith McDonald said. “Some people are gone in the winter and some are gone in the summertime.”

“We have three Lutheran friends we talked into coming to our quilting sessions.” McDonald added.

The quilting sessions are informal. “You just do what you can,” said Viola Stahl.

“There are no rules or regulations. Nobody says ‘Yes’ and nobody says ‘No.’ You just show up and go to work. We do what’s there to be done,” McDonald said.

The quilters may work on as many as two or three quilts at a time. The projects take from a week to two or more, depending upon the intricacies of the pattern.

Some quilters take tying a QOV personally: The global conflicts involving the U.S. Armed Forces have touched First Congregational Church families, too.

Largely unsung, the quilters do receive an occasional word or two of praise for their work.

“Last week, we got a telephone call from the chaplain at the Long Beach, California Veterans Hospital thanking us for our work,” Myers said.

The Dorcas Circle quilters apply a label with each quilt top to let others know Dorcas Circle members cared enough to take on a QOV project.

The hands that tie quilts at First Congregational Church in Austin are part of a network of helping hands across the nations.

Quilt pieces tied in Austin are sent to other places around the country where the actual quilting is done.

McDonald is in charge of the sale of all-occasion greeting cards; one of the ways the Dorcas Circle supports its QOV work. A church rummage sale Oct. 22 is another and a hot pop-over and pies plus chicken supper luncheon that same day is still another.

Fabric is also donated by members and others for the work.

“With the donations, the project is pretty-much self-sustaining,” said McDonald.

During a break in their quilting work, the Dorcas Circle members gather around a table for cake, coffee and conversation.

Eileen Koopal spoke for all when she told how important the QOV project is to her.

“When I joined the group, I hadn’t done any quilts before,” she said. “Judy invited me to join and Donna got me started on how to flip and sew,” she said.

“I like all things patriotic anyway, so I was happy to do my part,” she said. “I think it is a very satisfying experience, knowing what these quilts are going.”

The quilts are going to places far away. They will keep veterans warm the only way a hand-made quilt can do.

They will cover broken bodies and hearts.

Diane T. Castillo, Ph. D., program coordinator. women’s stress disorder treatment team, Department of Veterans Affairs, Albuquerque, N.M. wrote Ms. Myers “I would like to thank you for remembering our female veterans. Your warm and caring hearts, your hard-working hands and your thoughtful messages of gratitude for their service to our country are the best gifts our patients could ever receive.”

Katherine C. Jones, assistant station manager, American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., also wrote Dorcas Circle: “We appreciate your willingness to support our uniformed members and their families in this way and consider it a privilege to pass along your gifts,”

One-hundred quilts and counting, the Dorcas Circle members show no signs of letting up on their QOV project. Nor speaking their consciences.

“I do not support the war, but I do support every one of the veterans. This is our way of showing we support them” Myers said.