Quilts of Valor members honor veterans with heirloom quilts

Barbara Carley works on her valor quilt at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne. The Quilts of Valor organization makes quilts for veterans. Photo by Blaine McCartney, Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

By Kristine Galloway Wyoming Tribune Eagle Via Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE - A group of quilters in Cheyenne started off their new year honoring America's veterans.
Just two days into 2018, several members of Cheyenne's Quilts of Valor chapter met to spend nearly all day making heirloom quilts to present to local veterans.
The group meets the first Tuesday of every month to work on the quilts. They first met four years ago and have made about 100 quilts - but that's only since they began keeping track.
"We get a lot of satisfaction out of the process of making them and also of presenting them," Marilyn Lanham, the group's leader, said. "To see the joy on their faces, that's our reward."
The Quilts of Valor Foundation is a nonprofit, so the entire operation is based on volunteers and donations. Quilt recipients don't pay for the quilts. They receive them to honor their service to the United States.
Lanham said a woman named Catherine Roberts founded the Quilts of Valor Foundation in 2003 following a significant dream.
Roberts dreamed of a young soldier. He was deployed and depressed. She then saw him with a quilt wrapped around him.
"His hopes were up. He was no longer despondent. He felt so much better," Lanham said.
"And she realized then that quilts would give equal comfort to our soldiers and veterans."
At the time of her dream, Roberts had a son deployed in Iraq.
Today, Quilts of Valor groups exist in every state. According to the foundation's website, www.qovf.org, more than 178,000 quilts have been presented nationwide to veterans.
Lanham said each quilt can cost $150-$250 to make. That includes batting and about 10 yards of quality fabric. They only use 100 percent cotton. Oftentimes, much of the cost comes out of the quilters' pockets.
Quilts of Valor accepts donations nationally and locally. Lanham said monetary donations are best because the quilters can use them for what they know they need.
All veterans and service members are eligible to receive a quilt. The local group members make quilts for those who served in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War, as well as those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Our goal here was to start with the oldest vets - the World War IIs - since we're losing them," Lanham said.
"I know we have missed some, but we have presented quite a few."
Each heirloom quilt includes a label and a presentation case. The presentations are memorable, moving experiences for families and quilters.
Barb Carley, a member of the local group, said, "They're tear-jerkers. It's very, very rewarding to see the people's smiles. They're so appreciative of (the quilts)."
She takes photos at the presentations, which are included in the group's scrapbook of presentations.
Lanham said one local gentleman used his quilt every day until he passed. "They used it as a cover on his casket," she said.
Lanham said her work in Quilts of Valor honors her late father, Martin C. McCloy. He served in the Army Air Corps and fought in the Pacific theater during World War II.
"These ladies here all have the same feelings about honoring our veterans because of all the work, all the time, all the sacrifices they have made," Lanham said.
"And I know my dad is smiling down."
Neoma White is a U.S. Army veteran, so she makes quilts for those who served with her and before her.
She grew up in a small town in Michigan, so they always personally knew those who served in the military.
White retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2010 after serving in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) division. She said that division provides services to take care of military members, and her volunteer work with Quilts of Valor is a continuation of that service.
Jean Hursman does some of the longarm quilting for the group. That's the stitching over the top of the quilts that holds them together.
She has a longarm quilting machine at her house and spends about five hours on each quilt.
Hursman said four of her five brothers served in the military. Through her previous job as a registered nurse for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, she saw how much some veterans need that extra comfort.
Hursman said she is always looking for ways to give back.
"My mom always taught me that it's better to give than to receive," she said.
Hursman added that it's nice to make something with your own hands and give it to someone who truly appreciates the value of it and the effort put into it.
"I think they know it comes from the heart," she said.


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