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Reaping what they sew: Volunteers needed to make quilts for veterans

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer
CHRIS DORST | Gazette photos
ABOVE: Carolyn Menello (left) and Debbie Tettenburn unfold a quilt made by Menello as Mary Watson looks on. Quilts of Valor are intended to thank and comfort soldiers who served during wartime. ABOVE, RIGHT: Students from Bridgeview Elementary School made these squares with messages for soldiers. A sew-in is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Maranatha church in St. Albans to sew these and other squares into quilts.
CHRIS DORST | Gazette Sherra Bailey, state coordinator of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, shows a quilt sewn together with colorful message squares made by Montrose Elementary School students. The quilts are presented to soldiers who have served in the military during wartime.

Sherra Bailey is on a mission to come up with 45 quilts to present to West Virginia combat veterans.

“These men and women have taken their lives and put them on the line for the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis,” said Bailey, whose father was among troops that stormed the beach at Iwo Jima in World War II. Her father served during the Vietnam War, and her husband is a U.S. Marine.

Presenting combat veterans with a keepsake quilt is one small way to thank them for their service, said Bailey, who is state coordinator for the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a group of volunteers who make quilts to give to those who served in the military during wartime.

“It was wonderful when I found the foundation, because I felt like it was made for me,” Bailey, who has been the state coordinator for about a year, she said. Bailey said the organization gave her a way to help show veterans how important they are.

Nationwide, Quilts of Valor groups accept requests for quilts to present to veterans. The quilts are intended as a “thank you” and as a message of hope and comfort to those whose lives have been touched by combat.

Quilts of Valor in West Virginia currently has a backlog of 45 requests for quilts. A sew-in is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Maranatha Family Life Center in St. Albans to help sew the quilts together. Bailey and event co-organizer Maribeth Shreve said anyone is welcome to help, whether they know how to sew or not.

“We'll find something for them to do,” Shreve said.

Bailey, who tries to present quilts personally to service men and women, said the warriors often tear up when they get the gift. For many, it’s the first time anyone has really thanked them for what they did for their country, she said.

Since 2003, when the organization was formed, Quilts of Valor has made and presented more than 99,000 quilts to veterans all over the world. Bailey has made about 40 herself.

She said she gave the first Quilt of Valor quilt she made to her grandfather. It was one of the few times she'd ever seen him cry.

She went on to make quilts for her father and four uncles, and ended up making 20 quilts for family members.

When Shreve found out about the need for 45 quilts, she agreed to help. Shreve is a member of the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, which provides quilts for the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also runs a quilt ministry at the Maranatha church.

Shreve helped set up Saturday’s quilting event and get the word out about the project. Materials and sewing machines will be provided at the church, and people will be on hand to help show would-be quilters what to do.

Bailey and Shreve have a good start on making the quilts. Bailey said students at Montrose Elementary School made enough quilt squares to sew six complete quilts.

Then Maranatha got into the act, asking church youth to make quilt squares, too. The kids made enough for four quilts, and had fun in the process.

“The kids had a great time,” said Maranatha children’s pastor Susan Feazell. Students at Bridgeview Elementary School made enough squares for four more quilts.

Bailey said veterans who are presented with a Quilts of Valor quilt often can't believe they're a gift, and want to pay something.

“I tell them this is something they've already paid for with their time and service to the country,” she said.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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