By Wanda Curtis
Quilts are a source of comfort. From the cradle to the grave, wrapping oneself in a quilt can have a calming effect. The founder of the nonprofit Quilts of Valor® Catherine Roberts thought that quilts can also be healing. Roberts initiated the idea of awarding handmade quilts, referred to as Quilts of Valor, to service men and women touched by war, as a gesture of gratitude for their service, sacrifice and valor in defending our nation during wartime.
According to their website, the QOV Foundation originated in 2003 after Roberts had a dream while her son Nat was deployed in Iraq. She dreamed about a young man sitting on the side of his bed, hunched over in the middle of the night, in a state of despair. She said then, as if viewing a movie, she saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. She said that his whole demeanor had changed from one of despair to hope.
Suddenly, Roberts had an idea. She thought of how a volunteer team could donate their time and materials to make quilts for active and retired military personnel. Some volunteers could make quilt pieces for the top and others could quilt it. Each quilt would be called a “Quilt of Valor.” These quilts would be awarded to express gratitude for service rendered to our nation and for the sacrifice and valor with which the service was rendered.
The first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003, according to QOVF.org, to a young soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who lost his leg in Iraq. Chaplain John Kallerson opened the door to the quilters because his wife was a quilter. Kallerson thought the act of awarding quilts to the wounded would convey the message that someone cared. The movement spread across the nation.
Many Maine Quilters Participate
State of Maine coordinator for the QOV Foundation Donna Brookings said that quilters all across the U.S. donate quilt blocks or completed quilts. She said many quilters throughout Maine are involved in the movement. Some make blocks, some join the blocks together and others complete the backing.
“We have groups in Chelsea, Fort Kent, Houlton, Bangor, Litchfield, Norway, Gorham, Portland, Yarmouth, Saco, Sanford and Bridgton that all help make quilts,” said Brookings. “We have many individuals all over the state, as well, that help make quilts.”
Special Award Ceremony
According to Brookings, approximately 900 Quilts of Valor have been distributed in Maine since 2017. She said the quilts are awarded in a special ceremony at private homes, in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and even hospitals. One veteran, awarded a quilt at Togus VA Hospice, shared that he’d never been thanked for his service before and receiving the quilt made his service worthwhile. Other veterans have shared how they wrapped their quilt around themselves when they felt upset and it calmed them, said Brookings. Each quilt has the recipient’s name inscribed on the back.
Donations NeededIt’s difficult to keep up with all the requests for quilts, said Brookings. Donations are always welcome. Quilts of Valor must be quilted rather than tied, she said. Patriotic colors are preferred but other colors are also acceptable. Fabric and size requirements can be viewed at qovf.org. In addition to donations of completed quilts, Brookings said they need more volunteers to help assemble and quilt individual blocks that are donated. The QOV foundation accepts donations of money and/or materials as well. For more information about donating quilts, materials or money and/or to refer active service members or veterans for a quilt, call Donna Brookings at (207) 523-9322 or email donna.brookings@QOVF. org. Active and retired service members touched by war may also request a quilt for themselves.
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