PHOTO: Carol Lea Spence
The dinner Fayette County Extension Homemakers recently hosted for 14 military veterans and their families was the result of days of cooking, weeks of preparation and many months of quilting for the Quilts of Valor program—all to say thank you to the veterans for their service.
Quilts of Valor, a national, nonprofit organization made up entirely of volunteers, provides “healing” quilts to veterans. It was begun in 2003 by Catherine Roberts, whose son was stationed in Iraq. The organization now has arms in every state, and it has distributed more than 146,000 quilts to veterans around the country.
Nancy Cann is the organization’s state coordinator in Kentucky. She has spent the past year connecting with quilter’s guilds and University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension offices to engage Extension Homemakers in making quilts. Extension Homemakers’ mission is one of giving back. In Fayette County, the group has about 450 members who volunteer more than 30,000 hours each year.
“We felt like Quilts of Valor was something that fit our extension model,” said Elizabeth Kingsland, Fayette County agent for family and consumer sciences education. “We hope it will continue to grow. One of the things I’ve found interesting is that it attracts quilters of all ages. We have a lot of seasoned quilters, but we have some new people involved in the quilt guild who are younger – all the way to youth. That’s really important to us to show that we can reach all ages.”
Diana Doggett, Fayette County agent for family and consumer sciences education, said mentoring was a valuable aspect.
“One of the things the Homemakers feel seriously about is giving back and mentoring young people,” she said. “One of the fantastic results of this project is its connection to our younger generation. In addition to providing skill mentoring, there is an opportunity to discover and discuss our country’s history, resulting in multigenerational honor for those service men and women who have given so much for the freedoms we enjoy.”
Of the 14 quilts presented during the ceremony, seven were made by members of the Bluegrass Quilters’ Guild, part of Extension Homemakers. In addition, 11-year-old Allie Morris and 16-year-old Sydney Coker each made a quilt through a program called Under Our Wings, where experienced quilters are paired with non-sewers and guide them through making a quilt.
Receiving a quilt can be an emotional experience for a veteran. David Brown, a former radioman second class in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, received his last year in Paducah, his hometown.
“You see veterans coming in, disabled. You see veterans coming in very, very old and disabled, and you realize that you’re involved in something pretty special,” Brown said. “Meeting those other men and women there and hearing how they got to be nominated for a Quilt of Valor, how surprised they were, how honored they were, I gained a deeper and more profound appreciation for what quilts can do for you. Quilts are kind of a utilitarian thing in our lives, until you get one of these wrapped around your shoulders, and you realize that it is also something that can reach your heart.”
At the ceremony in the Fayette County Extension office, the veterans spanned all conflicts since World War II, with the oldest veteran to receive a quilt being 95 years old.
“It’s really exciting to have that, because you have the generations, you have the experiences, and you have, at the same time, an extreme mutual respect for each generation of veteran,” Cann said.
Veterans who received their Quilts of Valor that night were David Terry, U.S. Navy; Michael Shaner, U.S. Army; Janell Shaner, U.S. Army; Matthew Maloy, U.S. Army; Joshua Parsons, U.S. Army, Tony Colella, U.S. Air Force; Franketta Zalasnik, U.S. Army; Raymond Waits, U.S. Navy; Jim Moesch, U.S. Air Force; Clyde Graven, U.S. Army; Maurice Votaw, U.S. Army and Barry Rucker, U.S. Army.
Diana Doggett or Elizabeth Kingsland, 859-257-5582