Local quilters help honor military veterans with "Quilts of Valor"

The Quilts of Valor gifted to veterans during area Memorial Day services were displayed in the window of Queen Jean Quilting in Waukon.

by Brianne Eilers

A local group of quilters has been working steadily the past few months on a labor of love. The group of between eight and 10 quilters meets every third Saturday at Queen Jean Quilting, located at 5 East Main Street in downtown Waukon, to put together quilts for the Quilts of Valor program, an organization through which these quilts find their way to veterans of foreign wars.
According to the Quilts of Valor website, www.qovf.org, their mission is "to cover all our warriors and combat veterans who have been touched by war or wounded with our healing and comforting Quilts of Valor." This non-profit foundation began in November 2003 with the idea to distribute quilts to help comfort and heal veterans who have been wounded by war, whether the damage be physical or psychological. It's a way for anyone to show their respect and appreciation for the sacrifices and service the recipients have given for this country.
As of Mid-May, the number of quilts that have been given to veterans was at 99,836. The quilts are all made by volunteers, who choose the fabrics and patterns, piece them together, and then quilt them.

Jean Brink, the owner of Queen Jean Quilting, who also served her country in the United States Army, explained that the quilts that are being made do have to meet certain specifications. For example, the minimum size requirement for a finished quilt is 55 inches by 65 inches. While there is no set standard for colors or patterns, many of the quilts are done with a patriotic theme in mind. The quilts must also be made from high-quality, 100% cotton material.
Once the quilt has been finished, a label is attached bearing the first names of the person who pieced the quilt together and the person who quilted it, as well as what state they are from. Quilters can also include a brief message, if they wish. A matching pillowcase is made, which serves as a decorative way to present the quilt, as well as being functional. The quilters may not necessarily know who the recipient of their work is, but they do know that their efforts are appreciated by the veterans and their families.
At Queen Jean Quilting, volunteers purchase fabric and batting, and then cut the fabric and sew together the tops. It costs about $200 for materials for each quilt. Brink then uses her long-arm quilting machine to quilt the tops.
While most of the quilts are sent away to be distributed to U.S. veterans at home and around the globe, a few do stay local. During the Memorial Day ceremonies in Harpers Ferry and Lansing this year, quilts made locally were distributed to area veterans (as depicted in the surrounding photos). Three were awarded in Harpers Ferry, and two in Lansing. More quilts will be going to a very special reunion coming up in September in South Carolina.
For one of the members of this quilting group, Barbara Davidson of Decorah, these quilts have an extra-special meaning. Barbara's husband, Harry, was a member of the United States Marine Corps and of the 1st LAAM battalion Bravo battery, making him one of the first Marines to go into Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Davidson and her husband will be taking over 20 quilts to the group's 50th Anniversary reunion taking place in Charleston, SC this fall.
"When these guys came home, they had to deal with anti-war protests and things like that," Davidson noted. "The quilts are a way to thank them, and let them know they are appreciated."

For more information on the Quilts of Valor program, visit the website, www.qovf.org, or stop in or call Queen Jean Quilting at 563-217-0393. The local volunteers work on the quilts for the Quilts of Valor program the third Saturday of every month, for those who would like to help with the making of the quilts. Donations are also accepted to help with costs of fabric and batting and other materials, and can be dropped off at Queen Jean Quilting in Waukon.