Quilts warm, comfort the hearts of families with deployed troops
October 16, 2008
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Quilting is a skill I have yet to master, but not because my mother didn't try to teach me.
As a child, I watched her diligently work at a long table, numerous fabric patterns spread to each side. As she patiently explained the process, I watched her needle-battered fingers tell a story as well.
It never stuck, but the memories stitched within the quilts she made will live on forever.
Every quilt tells a story - some of patriotism, keeping Soldiers warm at night during the Civil War - while others, with fabric from a baby blanket, allowing adults to warm themselves in the nostalgia of their childhood.
Through Operation Kid Comfort, volunteers from around the country are putting their quilting skills to work, warming the hearts of many military families of deployed Soldiers.
In an effort to provide a treasured gift to military families who endure long separations from loved ones, photo-transfer quilts are gifted to young children depicting images of their deployed parent.
"The spouses and children of deployed men and women need to know their service to this country has not gone unnoticed," said volunteer and quilting artist Ellen Huntley. "I love quilting, and this is a little thing I can do from my corner of the world.
"It means so much to the families," added Huntley.
The Armed Services YMCA's (ASYMCA) program was created in 2004 at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, N.C., to address the emotional stress that children of military personnel suffer during a parent's absence.
The programs provides free quilts for children ages 6 and under and pillows for children ages 7 and up.
Volunteers collect photographs from military families to make the photo-transfer quilts. With the help of local quilting artists, volunteers learn the basic steps of quilt making, how to crop and scan pictures, and how to prepare the fabric and use the equipment.
"My children are too young to fully understand why their father is gone for so long," said family member Marie Grimsley. "This is the perfect way to have daddy with them at all times."
To date, more than 5,000 quilts have been given out nationwide.
"The response to the program has been overwhelming, and it's really amazing how word of the program spread," said Susan Simms, manager of Branch and Corporate Relations, ASYMCA. "I had one quilter say it was like 'adopting grandchildren for a day or so' ... it's infectious."
Volunteers, as well as quilting supplies, are always in demand.
"When the children see these quilts, the look on their face is amazing," said Kathy Kinneman, community relations and fund development, ASYMCA.
Kinneman recalled a time when a 3-year-old pulled out her quilt and yelled, "It's daddy!"
"There was not a dry eye in the place," Kinneman said. "It was a precious moment for everyone involved."
To receive a quilt or learn more about supporting military families through volunteer opportunities and donations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Hawaii ASYMCA at 808-473-0200.