Quilters piece together blankets of gratitude for wounded

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Mary Lancaster and Paula Perry display the quilt they made as part of Country Stitchers Quilting Guild?s service project, Quilts of Valor. Sheila Nuss and Jan Meisinger also worked on the quilt.
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This is the note that is stitched into every Quilt of Valor made by the Country Stitchers Guild.

The hands of Country Stitchers quilters have been busy piecing and stitching quilts for U.S. military personnel wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I know of at least eight (quilts), but that doesn't mean that there aren't more," said member Paula Perry about the number made by members of Marion County?s quilting guild. "I've heard of people saying they're going to make one or they're working on one."

Making those quilts has been Country Stitchers? service project this past year, Perry said.

?We have some (guild members) who have made their quilts, but we also had a night that instead of having a program, we had work night and we worked on quilts,? Perry said.

The local group has been part of a network of guilds dedicated to constructing and distributing quilts to men and women physically and/or emotionally wounded in the wars fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That national network is coordinated by Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Catherine Roberts in 2004, committed to tangibly showing support to all combat wounded.

?This foundation is not about politics?it’s about people,? Roberts states on the organization?s Web site.

Groups as well as individuals are donating quilts to Quilts of Valor.

At one of the Country Stitcher board meetings, Perry said, it was decided to adopt the project for this past year.

?The girls knew that I was involved in Quilts of Valor from the Kansas Bee, and they were looking for a service project,? said Perry.

The Kansas Bee, founded by Katy Vickers and Cassandra Carson, is a quilting group that meets in Wichita once a month to work on quilts for Quilts of Valor.

Perry started quilting at age 12, learning the craft from her grandmother.

?I didn?t become serious, serious until about 10 or 11 years ago,? she said. ?And now I pretty much do it during all my free time.?

Perry has some 20 projects in different stages.

She became involved in the Kansas Bee after attending a quilt show.

?(The Kansas Bee) had a booth at the Wichita Quilt Show in 2006?that?s how I found out about them,? Perry said. ?It just sort of grew from there.?

The Bee meets monthly to work on QOV quilts at different stages?piecing, stitching and backing.

?Since the exposures at the Wichita Quilt Show, we have been getting tops and blocks and quilts from all over the state, and some out-of-state,? Perry said.

?Some are finished, some are not.?

Before a wounded soldier receives a completed quilt, along with a matching pillow slip, the quilt moves through three levels of QOV.

Quilt-toppers are those who piece the top and back it.

?The minimum size is 50 by 60 inches up to twin size,? Perry said.

Most of the materials are donated by individuals as well as churches, and all of the stitching is by machine, so the quilts will be more durable, Perry said.

?Our biggest expense out of all of this is the shipping,? she said.

?We do have to buy backing and batting when people send us tops that need to be quilted.?

After the quilt top is completed, longarmers take the tops and backing and insert the middle section, or batting.

The last group in the QOV process are those who identify wounded soldiers who will receive completed quilts, including chaplains and social workers.

?Everything we do, including the Kansas Bee, throughout the United States has to go through the national organization because they?re the ones to tell us where to send the quilts,? Perry said.

?We don?t just send them.?

Ideally, quilts are given to soldiers when they?re in the hospital.

?But that doesn?t always happen then,? Perry said.

A Marion County recipient, Spec. Molly Holub of Marion who was wounded in Iraq, was presented a quilt in October 2006 at the Hillsboro American Legion. The quilt was made by the Kansas Bee.

A quilt is waiting for Pete Richert of Hillsboro once he returns from his recent furlough to the Armed Forces Rehabilitation Center at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Houston.

?There was a special quilt that one of the girls did in Wichita that?s got an eagle on it and some applique,? Perry said.

She said it?s possible that others from Marion County who have been wounded may have received a quilt when they were in the hospital.

Each quilt has a label identifying it as a quilt of valor, who made it and what town it?s from.

Almost never do quilters know names of the recipients?unless they choose to respond, she said.

?Sometimes you get a response from them, but the majority of time you don?t,? Perry said. ?The only time we know for sure who gets the quilt is if we do a presentation ourselves.?

Perry understands the support needed for loved ones serving in combat. Her son, C. J. Perry, 29, has been in Iraq for a year.

?It looks like, if everything goes alright and it continues on schedule, he?ll be home sometime in the middle of October,? she said.

In the meantime, Perry continues her quilting and is pleased with the momentum of the national QOV project.

?It?s a network of everybody working on it,? she said.

For more information about Quilts of Valor or ways to become involved, visit www.qovf.org.

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