As walkers stroll by a shop in the Westridge Mall in Fergus Falls, they are met with laughter, chatter and a bustle of activity. It could be described as a scene from Santa’s workshop, but quilts, not toys, are being made. The quilters are hard at work; designing, cutting, sewing and turning out a beautiful quilt to give to a wounded soldier somewhere across America. This Fergus Falls Chapter of Quilters of Valor (QOV), formed in October 2007, is one of many groups established around the nation since 2003. Three Fergus quilters, Paulette Hoebelheinrich, Penny Miller and Gail Brennan, visited the QOV group in Perham in 2007. They were so impressed that they came back and formed a group in Fergus Falls. “All this space is donated to us by the Mall,” said Penny. “We are fortunate we can leave our supplies and machines set up year round. Some clubs have to reassemble after every work day.” The second Friday of every month is designated as their work day. You may see 20-40 people hand sewing the bindings, machine sewing the tops and bottoms together, or cutting various patterns. Many people stop by and pick up a quilt kit and take it home and sew it. The kits have been precut and designed by various ladies at the shop. All the material is donated either by monetary gifts and purchases or people bringing material scraps from home. Five or six or the ladies have quilting machines at home to do the top stitching design. The 55×70 quilt has an 80/20 cotton/polyester batting. Many are patriotic in design and color, but they use any and all of the material they receive. Every quilt has a matching pillow case with it to serve as a cover for the quilt when shipping. The finished product has a label on it signed by the one who designed it and the one who quilted it. The QOV label reads: May this quilt keep you safe from harm may it be your good luck charm I do not know your name nor the mountain you face but what you hold in your arms is a quilter’s embrace. A flag notecard is enclosed with every gift and signed by everyone who worked on it. Diana Tjaden takes home three quilts at a time to hand sew the bindings. “I have been quilting since childhood. I helped my grandma, I quilted at church and I belonged to several quilters’ groups. I have made quilts for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.” At age 83, Mildred Karlgaard is the oldest volunteer. The youngest is a group from the Fergus Falls Textiles class. They completed nine quilt tops and pillow cases. On May 5, 34 women from the Perham and Fergus Falls chapters traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky. They wanted to personally deliver over 500 quilts to the soldiers injured in the war. Quilters from the Underwood area also attended. The Underwood American Legion and the Underwood Lion’s Club had hosted a fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day to help offset the expenses for the bus trip. They had a corn/beef cabbage feed and Irish stew cook-off, a bake sale, a silent auction, a quilt raffle and a wine tasting event. Several businesses and organizations also donated money for the trip. A total of $17,000 was raised. “The Legion also contacted other American Legion clubs along the bus route and we were fed by five of those groups going down and coming back,” said Gail. The ladies arrived at their destination and were impressed by the total care given the members from the War on Terrror. “Their physical, psychological and spiritual needs were given top priority,” said Paulette. “We do not want our veterans to come back like those in Vietnam.” Each traveler received a coin of excellence for “exceptional performance.” They also received a medal from the chaplain that read: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31. The reverse says, “Thousands died for my freedom, one died for my soul.” Posted on the window of the QOV shop are letters from the recipients of the quilts. One letter states: “The quilts, their pillowcases and the note inside are very impressive and certainly reflect the care and effort that is put into making each quilt.” A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) victim writes: “I cannot tell you how much this quilt means to me so I simply want to say thank you. Due to PTSD you can find me awake on my couch with the quilt on me, it has kept me warm through some very cold times. I have taken a few road trips since my return from Iraq and I always take it with me. It has become one of my most treasured possessions.” You can read more about the Fort Knox trip on their blog at qovmission.blogspot.com.
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