Group quilts honor, show gratitude to those who served


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Shelia Bland of Cocoa Beach, a volunteer with Quilts of Valor, helps to arrange the group’s displays during the reunion.

SENIOR LIFE R. Norman Moody

Margo Knowles learned about the Quilts of Valor Foundation last year while attending the Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion at Wickham Park in Melbourne. 

She soon became a member, helping to craft quilts that serve as a token of appreciation to veterans, and which is intended to say: “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.”

This year, Jennifer Burke of West Melbourne learned about the work of the quilters and liked the idea for her mother-in-law Kathy Burke, who already does quilting.

 Jennifer Burke of West Melbourne wanted information and photos of Quilts of Valor to take back to her mother-in-law, Kathy Burke. | Photo by  R. Norman Moody“I saw quilts and said, that’s Kathy,” Burke said when she saw Space Coast Quilts of Valor’s booth at the Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion.

Catherine Roberts started Quilts of Valor in 2003 in her sewing room in Seaford, Del. when her son Nathanael was deployed to Iraq for a year. Organizers said she saw it as the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart award. It is a way to welcome returning troops home with love and gratitude.

Twelve veterans were awarded the Quilts of Valor during a ceremony at this year’s reunion. There were even more requests for quilts to honor family members or friends who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Nearly 160,000 quilts have been awarded since November 2003 when one from Roberts went to a young soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who had lost his leg in Iraq.

“She made the first one for her son,” said Pam Leese, state coordinator for Quilts of Valor. “It’s been growing since.”

The increasing number of requests now has the local group looking to recruit more volunteers to help craft the quilts. The Space Coast Quilts of Valor meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at Quilts and Lace at 7720 N. Wickham Road, Suite 111 in Melbourne.

Volunteers are passionate about the work they do to honor the veterans.

“Vets have been ignored for a long time, especially when they came back from Vietnam,” said Knowles, whose husband served in the Navy during the war.

Leese, who lives near Ocala, said she wanted to help when she learned about Quilts of Valor through her veteran father, Victor Huber.

“I was inspired,” she said. “I started looking into it and found out that they didn’t have anybody to coordinate it in Florida.”

She soon was asked to be the coordinator in the state.

“When I get a request, I have to find the people to do it,” she said. 

The organization looks for donations of cash and material to help defray some of the cost of the quilts, which can be up to $250 to make one. 

For more information, go to the website QOVF.org.