Three veterans were wrapped with quilts Friday during an Athens Rotary Club meeting at Athens State University. The quilts weren't just any piece of fabric stitched together but Quilts of Valor meant as an expression of gratitude to cover and comfort the veterans.
Veterans Tommy Woodroof, Freddie Martin and Walter Walker were all awarded quilts in front of a host of family and friends.
Woodroof served in the United States Navy. Martin and Walker served in the United States Army.
The quilts, made by local Quilts of Valor Foundation members known as the Hen House Quilters, were used as a way to recognize and award the veterans for their service and remind them that they are wrapped with love.
The mission of QOVF is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. The quilts are used to send a message of honor, thanks and comfort, according to members.
Ceceila Bradford, a member of Athens Rotary and QOVF, said the Hen House Quilters have 25 members. The group was formed about a year ago and are continuing to grow. The group is supported by 3 Hens & A Chick Quilt Shop, an official Quilts of Valor shop on U.S. 31.
The quilters — men and women — are volunteers who meet once a month to piece the quilt blocks and tops before another group of volunteers quilt them together.
“It really does take a village,” Bradford said. “They all do this with their own resources and time out of love and appreciation. It's our way of honoring you who have served with comforting and healing quilts.”
The quilts are not meant to be placed on a shelf, according to members. They are meant to be used.
Mary Harris, QOVF coordinator for North Alabama, explained the organization was created in 2003 by Catherine Roberts while her son was deployed to Iraq.
“She had a dream of a post-deployment warrior or veteran in bed struggling with his war demons,”
Harris said. “Then, in the next scene, she saw him sitting on the side of his bed wrapped in a quilt. The quilt seemed to comfort him and fend off the war demons that troubled him. From this vision, Quilts of Valor Foundation begun.”
QOVF have several core values, including honoring veterans of all faiths and beliefs, putting the best possible workmanship and materials into every quilt, putting Quilts of Valor recipients first and being accountable for their actions to all recipients, supporters, donors and volunteers.
She said the first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg in Iraq.
“As of today … We have awarded over 227,517 quilts to deserving veterans and service members,” Harris said, adding there have been many more because they didn't keep count for several years.
“We quilters believe that as we sew, love, care and gratitude flow from our hearts through our hands into the quilts we make,” Roberts said. “All of us, as quilters, want you to know that through our quilts, you are forever a part of us.”
Harris said the layers of the quilt represent different things. She said the top of the quilt — its colors, shapes and fabrics — represents the communities and individuals. The batting or filler is the center of the quilt and represents hope the quilt will bring warmth, comfort, peace and healing, Harris said.
She said the backing is the strength that supports the other layers.
“It represents the strength of the recipient, the support of the family, the community and nation,” she said. “Each stitch that holds the layers together represents love, gratitude and … oftentimes, the tears of the maker.”
Visit www.QOVF.org for more information, to donate to the organization or to request a quilt for a deserving veteran.