Quilts of Valor program seeks recipients and quilters

Mar 31, 2022 | Front Page

Staff Writer

The Quilts of Valor program has been frequently written about over the past dozen or so years on the mountaintop. The program was started in 2003 in Washington, D.C. to give those touched by war a healing quilt.

When local resident and award-winning quilter Dr. Ginger Gabriel heard of the program and, since she loved to quilt already, she was convinced to create one. Dr. Gabriel, who is from a military family, was inspired by the concept of wrapping a veteran in the safety of the quilt to thank them for their service of keeping our country safe.

The first one she quilted was for a veteran in Louisiana and she spent $150 and 30 hours making it. Although she never heard from him, she was inspired to start making them for local veterans, since her husband, Stanley, was a veteran and a member of the local American Legion and her son was in the military. She has coordinated many of her quilter friends she knows from local quilt guilds to get involved in making Quilts of Valor over the years.

“I have had up to 14 quilters in one room at a time, making quilt blocks and piecing the quilt tops together. It is great fun doing it together,” she said.

On the third Monday of each month, now that they are allowed back into the senior center, she has a Quilts of Valor quilting session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Fireside Room of Leisure Shores Senior Center. She has about eight to 10 quilters attend with their sewing machines each month. She invites all skilled sewers or quilters to join with them; just call Penny Shubnell at Leisure Shores and let her know your interest so a table will be prepared for you.

Gabriel thanks her friend, Teri Ostlie, for getting the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club to source and purchase the fabric for the quilts, so they have much in reserve at this time. They use cotton batting, which has tripled in price recently. The finished quilts are 60 inches wide and often 75 inches long when finished, depending on the design.

Her current goal is to get more in the community aware of the program and to get them involved, as it is so impactful for the recipients. Since the veterans are local, a quilter may attend the ceremony where the quilt they worked on is presented, if they wish, and see the gratitude on the veteran’s face during the ceremony. Often the veterans are overwhelmed by the gesture as they are aware of the hours of hand work involved in their creation just for them.

The difficult part, Gabriel said, is getting the names of veterans and the information about their years of service for the ceremony for those who would appreciate receiving these beautiful patriotic quilts. Many veterans have rarely spoken of their service and are not seeking any recognition. It can take years to convince a veteran they deserve this honor, as it did with VFW Post Past Commander Gary Duncan. He always thought someone else was more deserving than himself.

“The wrapping of the veteran in the quilt is an essential part of the Quilts of Valor ceremony. The men were taken far away from their families and homes, where they dedicated years of their lives to keep our country safe, and the wrapping of the quilt around them is often a catalyst for healing,” said Gabriel, who was honored to be able to present her husband, Stanley, a Quilt of Valor early on in this program, before his untimely death.

But Gabriel is back and actively working on more quilts. “I wish I had a longarm quilting machine, as I send out many of my quilts for the final quilting after I’ve patched them together. Some of the local quilters make their quilts at home and donate them to the program. Often a quilt will be designed and sewn with a particular veteran in mind.”

She became the face and voice for Quilts of Valor locally after she told the American Legion about the program, and it became a part of the local Veterans and Memorial Day ceremonies during the years. The quilts are also presented at homes and in hospitals and at other events, as many of the veterans from the earlier wars are getting older.

Some of the veterans who have received quilts locally include the late Ray Bush, who got his at the age of 97 at an American Legion meeting. Bob Boyter, William Jones and Johnny Hephner were presented their Quilts of Valor by Mike Brewer. Justin Burgher received his from Dr. Ginger Gabriel at a Memorial Day service at the San Moritz Lodge. Quilts can be presented anywhere, including two presented during a Soroptimist-Every Girl Counts event at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School.

As of March 21, Quilts of Valor has presented 298,933 quilts to veterans, nationwide. This year, around Memorial Day, the 300,000th Quilt of Valor will be presented in the USA.

Dr. Gabriel is still seeking more veterans to be honored during this year’s Memorial Day ceremonies.



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