Quilts stitched by grateful volunteers

  • By Linda Bryant Smith Herald Columnist
  • Monday, October 1, 2007 5:32pm
  • Life

There’s a star-studded quilt in my sewing room waiting for a label.

For a woman who’s rarely without words, you’d think writing a quilt label would be a snap.

This one, however, is different.

One day soon, a military chaplain will carry it into the room of a wounded service man or woman as a tangible gift of thanks for sacrificing so much in service to this country.

Where are the words that can even begin to convey what my heart feels?

I’ll take my lead from people who’ve already done so much more than a single quilt: a retired schoolteacher, a WWII prison of war and a stay-at home mother from Gold Bar.

The common thread for June Moore, Fred Lind and Kimberly Burke is Quilts of Valor, a national organization linking hundreds of quilters across the country in one united effort: to cover all combat wounded and injured men and women with wartime quilts.

Lind, 89, like many volunteers, makes quilt tops and backs. Moore coordinates the efforts of Burke and others across the country with professional long-arm quilting machines that complete the quilts folks such as Lind stitch.

At a quilt show earlier this year I saw an elderly man admiring a display of patriotic quilts. That was Lind, a retired farmer from Quincy, and those were his quilts that Moore had set up as part of a Quilts of Valor display.

Pretty impressive work given the fact that he’d just learned to use a sewing machine months earlier. Making quilts for wounded soldiers has given him new energy and purpose. He’s finished eight and there are more to come

For Moore, the commitment to Quilts of Valor began online in a chat group with other professional machine quilters. She offered her services quilting tops. Then, while home recovering from surgery two years ago, she volunteered to take over the national coordinating task.

Since then she’s worked closely with Catherine Roberts, the group’s founder, as the project has expanded to more than 200 quilts donated each month to military hospitals and rehabilitation centers here and abroad.

More than 11,000 quilts have been given in the four years since Roberts made a blue-and-white quilt and sent it to a chaplain at Walter Reed Army Hospital asking him to give it to a wounded soldier.

Today, in the halls and wards of Walter Reed, brightly colored quilts can be spotted everywhere on beds and wheelchairs … even under the arms of outpatients returning for treatment.

And while 11,000 donated quilts is impressive, the number of injured in both combat and noncombat situations since the war began in Afghanistan and Iraq is nearly 60,000, according to the Department of Defense. So there is still much to do.

Moore met Kimberly Burke of Gold Bar at a quilting conference last fall in Tacoma. She was recruiting volunteers. Burke had already heard about the project and was ready to offer her services.

Although she’s pretty busy running a child care center, Burke carves out time at night and on weekends to quilt for others as well as complete Quilts of Valor.

“My customers know if I have a QOV in, it will always take priority. So far I’ve worked with quilters from within the state, but I know other machine quilters get them from all over the place,” she said.

A few weeks ago, when the sixth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks rolled around, Burke had a very special quilt on her machine. One of her online quilting groups had made a commitment for that day. They’d agreed their machines would all hold a quilt destined to honor a wounded service member or the family of one lost in battle.

Her machine held a quilt made for the 9-year-old son of a dead soldier. Others in her group had made quilts for his wife and mother. Several of the blocks held a handwritten message of encouragement and love. “It gave me goose bumps every time I walked by it,” she recalled.

“Maybe he’s too young to understand it all now. But when he’s older and he looks at that quilt, he will know there were many, many people all around the country who honored his father in life and death.

“To do this (quilt) for soldiers who protect our country so that I can be free to live here and do this … is a privilege.”

I think my label will have to include those eloquent words from Kimberly Burke. And, as I write, I’m sure the rest will come.

Linda Bryant Smith writes about life as a senior citizen and the issues that concern, annoy and often irritate the heck out of her now that she lives in a world where nothing is ever truly fixed but her income. You can e-mail her at ljbryantsmith@yahoo.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Grant Steller, an 18-year-old Coupeville High School graduate, is a freelance composer who writes digital orchestral music for films. (Photo provided)
Whidbey Island teen composes scores for films, games

A recent Coupeville High School graduate is forging a future in the music industry.

Ash was rescued along with Dexter, just before his euthanasia date. (Luisa Loi / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey Island woman rescues 300 German shepherds

“Can I save them all? No,” Renee Carr, of Oak Harbor said. “But I’m gonna try my hardest.”

The 2023 Infiniti QX80 has standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive available on all models. (Infiniti)
2023 Infiniti QX80 is powerful and posh

A mighty V8 engine does the work while a luxurious interior provides the pleasure.

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Artist Michelle Downes prepares to work on a few canvases in her garage workspace on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at her family’s home in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Stanwood artist Michelle Downes creates layered dreamscapes in resin

Resin is one part chemistry and one part artistry. Downes combines the two to make art that captures the imagination.

With winter on the way, October is the time to tuck and roll

That means preparing to put our gardens to bed while taking stock of the season gone by so we can plan for the year ahead.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

Great Plant Pick: Acer japonicum Aconitifolium

Fernleaf full moon maple, known for its foliage, develops brilliant fall color whether in full sun or shade.

Home grocery delivery predates online shopping by decades

This bicycle from 1930s England was built for delivering groceries. It sold at auction for $1,200 in U.S. currency.

Barb Denton smiles and laughs with her Jeep Cherokee Laredo that she has driven for 32 years on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Red Dragon,’ stolen from Sea-Tac, mysteriously returns home to Everett

Barb Denton’s rig of 348,000 miles was found three miles from home, intact, with a half-tank of gas and an empty bag of Oberto sticks.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

This Vacasa rental is disgusting. Can I get my money back?

The vacation rental Carol Wilson books for her group through Vacasa is infested with rats and insects. Vacasa offers to refund one night, but can they get all of their money back?