Sewn with love for our veterans who gave so much

  • Published
  • By Mary Lou Gorny
  • Hilltop Times editor
When Debbie French brought quilts she had created to work some time ago, she started something that has spread bright colorful warmth to the Burn Unit at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City and now to the George E. Wahlen Veterans Nursing Home in Ogden.

Her co-workers asked her to teach them, and a quilter's guild was born.

Thirty twin-sized quilts of various hues, designs and machine-sewn patterns will be handed out during the holidays to various veterans as the recreational manager and other volunteers assess donations and make sure the approximately 120 veterans there each get a wrapped present.

"Because our community loves us so much and is so generous we get quite a few donations this time of year," said P.J. Woodbury. "I run the volunteer program also. The activities touch on every aspect of their lives here: the social, emotional, educational and the spiritual and so forth. We're doing different things every day. We have a huge amount of volunteers and some short-term volunteers for the holidays."

Woodbury added that the volunteers would help pre-label the quilts for the recipients so they would not get mixed up. "Santa will come and deliver 120 gifts," she said as a result of all the donations.

Tresa Thomas, OO-ALC F-4 equipment specialist, a member of the guild, said that after the group got going and they made the first donations to the Burn Unit the decision was made to donate quilts to the nursing home. A plan was made for each member to quilt a square and use them to assemble a quilt they auctioned off for materials for the project. They sold individual tickets for the raffle and Thomas reports that many veterans donated funds instead when they were approached and refused a ticket. She said she was often told such things as, "Maybe when I get to be a resident of a nursing home somebody will donate a quilt for me."

The members took the funds they raised and used it to purchase the materials to make 30 patriotic-themed batting-filled layers of warmth. It took them two years.

Many of the members of the guild have retired from Hill AFB and have more time to quilt using long-armed sewing machines, while others have joined them from other locations. Laurel Wolf, who retired from the IRS, has immediate family members who work on the base and reports she has really enjoyed the camaraderie and the skills she has learned. A friend who worked at the base and was participating in the classes took her to a class but later stopped coming.

"I wasn't a very good quilter at that time and with the help of Debbie and all the rest of the girls I've learned lots of great things and been involved in doing things like this," she said.

Members travel as far as from Sandy and as far north as Ogden for the meetings held in various residential homes.

French reported at the Veterans Day event that the guild has considered taking a year off from doing another large project. "It was a lot of work," she reported.

The guild works on their own projects, including quilted hand bags, and other projects and often participates in quilting retreats together.

"Most of the girls have retired and they enjoy quilting," said Thomas. "I enjoy doing it and when I get ready to retire I'll be doing a whole lot more."

Regardless, this group of quilters makes one pretty great team, and the residents of the George E. Wahlen Veterans Nursing Home are all the better for it.