Quilt A Thon creates Quilts of Valor for veterans

LONE ROCK – The Quilted Steeple is often the site of quilting retreats and shows, however, the show and retreat held the weekend of Oct. 1, brought quilters together for a special purpose.
At any time throughout the weekend, and the Thursday and Friday leading up to the annual fall quilt show, around a dozen quilters could be found in the former church’s basement sewing away on Quilts of Valor. The quilts are handmade and presented to military veterans throughout the United States through the national organization, the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
Among the quilters was Ann Rehbein, of Ames, the national executive director of the Quilts of Valor Foundation.
Rehbein gets in on as many QOVF events and presentations as she can.  
The Quilted Steeple’s presentation of three quilts on Oct.1 were among the nearly 150,000 quilts that have been given to veterans since the organization began in 2003, she said.
“Quilts of Valor is in all 50 states,” said Rehbein. “It started in Delaware in 2003 and has grown that much. There have been 150,000 quilts given nationwide. They have also gone to Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Several of the quilts being created over the weekend were the quilters’ own, to be given to a special veteran in their lives.
“A lot of them do have someone in mind,” said Rehbein. “But we will accept any of them that are made.”
Quilts of Valor is a project that many organizations, quilt guilds and 4-H clubs have taken on.
“We are starting to see a lot of groups getting active with them,” said Rehbein. “All ages are making them. In Iowa, our Junior Auxiliary members helped make quilt blocks during the junior camp.”
The quilts created by Iowa quilters stay in state to be given to Iowa veterans.
“There is a demand for them right here in Iowa,” she said.
Just as every veteran has a story to tell, members of the QOVF Foundation have stories of their own to share with each quilt that has been given.
“It’s a neat way to say ‘thank you,’” said Rehbein. “There was one given to a man in Humboldt recently, and that man just broke down in tears. He was so humbled he was overwhelmed.”
Another story Rehbein heard was of a World War II veteran who said he didn’t receive a fancy welcome home.
“He said when he came home, there was no fanfare; no brass band,” she said. “When he received his quilt he said ‘this is my brass band.’”
For elderly or wounded veterans, the soft texture of a Quilt of Valor can be a source of comfort.
“One veteran had lost his sight, but he could stroke his quilt and feel the ties,” Rehbein said. “It’s not all about sight. The sense of feel can be a real comfort. It’s a multitude of things.”
Kathy Wilkerson, of Wapello, has attended each of the three Quilts of Valor retreats at the Quilted Steeple.
Her involvement at the state level of the American Legion Auxiliary first stemmed her interest in the project.
“The Department of Iowa Auxiliary did a day of service,” said Wilkerson. “That was the first quilt top I worked with and I wanted to make more.”
Wilkerson has been touched personally by a Quilt of Valor presentation to her father.
“That fall, after I helped with that first quilt, my father was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “He received that same Quilt of Valor and that just made me want to do this even more.”

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