By Anna Brugmann and Maria Di Bianca
COLUMBIA – The walls of the event center at Satin Stitches were lined with handmade quilts. A row of chairs decorated with patriotic ribbon faced the audience.
Veterans file in as Jan Martin, co-founder of the mid-Missouri chapter of Quilts of Valor, seats them in the order in which they will receive their quilts. The organization is about to honor 11 veterans at its annual Veterans Day celebration.
Quilts of Valor is a national non-profit organization that honors service men and women with handcrafted quilts. Quilts can be requested on the organization’s website. A request can be made with either the national group by going to their website or through a local group by contacting one of their members.
Once requested, volunteers piece together the blanket and mail it to the recipient within 30 days. The person who requested the quilt then delivers it to the recipient and the recipient has the option of having a small or large gathering for the presentation.
Catherine Roberts founded the national Quilts of Valor organization in 2003 after her son was deployed for a one-year tour of duty in Iraq.
“Her son was sent to Iraq and she wanted to be able to comfort him when he came back and that’s what she thought of…it works better than medals and plaques because they can actually be touched by it,” Martin said.
Since then, 431 branches of Quilts of Valor have awarded more than 108,000 quilts. Although the mid-Missouri chapter doesn’t keep specific numbers, they do record the number of quilts they give to the national organization. Martin says they have honored hundreds of veterans with quilts.
While the national Quilts of Valor sends quilts all over the United States, the mid-Missouri branch operates on a smaller level. Once a veteran is nominated, a group of 25 to 30 members research the veteran’s service history and incorporates different aspects of their service into the quilt design. The blankets are also inscribed with personal labels describing the recipient’s service history. Once assembled, it is personally awarded to the honoree.
“That was the defining difference that we wanted to do in mid-Missouri Quilts of Valor as opposed to the national group,” Martin sai
While Martin enjoys being a part of the group, after six years with them it’s the comfort that veterans receive that keeps her going.
“It’s comforting I think. From the time that we’re born people wrap us in quilts and they know, most people anyway, know quilts are made, you know, with love that they are meant to offer comfort,” Martin said.
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