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Interview Series: Quilts of Valor

11 Jul

Today is the first interview of a series I am doing on people involved in the textile world! Today, we have Carol Olson who is the Minnesota coordinator for Quilts of Valor!

Me: I’m here with Carol Olson, and we’re going to talk about Quilts of Valor’s Minnesota chapter. So Carol, can you explain what Quilts of Valor does for those of my readers who do not know?

Carol: Quilts of Valor is a non-profit foundation that was started in 2003 and they cover all warriors from World War II to the present with a healing quilt of comfort. Anyone who was touched by war, which is almost every veteran. It’s all donated, the pieces, quilters, long-armers. Ten percent of the quilts go abroad to the hospitals, so when they are wounded in the battlefield, they are automatically covered by a quilt. A small token from home, to show that we appreciate their service.

Me: Well that is a wonderful gift to give someone touched by war. So, what exactly is your roll in Quilts of Valor?

Carol: I am the Minnesota coordinator, and what I do is I try to get guilds and quilt shops to hold sew days to make our anniversary block, or to get a guild or a group or a guild at a local quilt shop to make Quilts of Valor. Some of the quilt shops around here have a group that will meet once a month that will work on Quilts of Valor, the presentation cases for the Quilts of Valor, labels, and just try to coordinate events and try to raise money for quilts of valor.

Me: How Long have you been working with Quilts of Valor?

Carol: Me, about 3 years I’ve been involved. I’ve been a coordinator for the last year now. It started with my son-in-law was on his third deployment, and when they got back from Afghanistan, 501 quilts where given at Fort Riley in Kansas. They all got covered with a quilt for their combat in Afghanistan.

Me: Wow, that is very impressive. About how many quilts per year does quilts of valor receive through the Minnesota Chapter?

Carol: In Minnesota there are different groups, there is a group up in Fergus Falls that just donated 900 quilts to Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. So the individual groups will decide where they want to donate. You have the option of requesting a destination or coming up with a local VFW. There is a group in Austin that decided they were going to make quilts for all of their church members who were veterans. I would say about 2000 to 3000 quilts Minnesota does a year.

Me: That is very impressive!

Carol: To date nation wide, this is a nation wide foundation, over 87000 quilts have been presented! They are not just a drop of quilt, each one has a name and is registered, unless you received your quilt in combat abroad. They have to be a certain size, 60″ by 80″. They can be a little less, a little more, that’s fine. If you know somebody, you can make a king size quilt of valor, but you can;t get the request for a long-armer for the quilting. All of the quilts are long-armed. They are not tied, because they won’t withstand any kind of washing in a hospital situation.

Me: They are a lot more durable when they are quilter versus just being tied.

Carol: Right, exactly. We use good quality material, you can use any pattern. If you are giving it abroad it has to be red white and blue, but at home if you know somebody it can be any color, and pattern. So that makes it easier for people to use up their scraps. I mean, it’s a small token for service of your country.

Me: I completely agree. Both of my Grandfathers were in World War II, and one of my cousins is in the military, and I was telling him about a quilt top I made, that I think I am quilting this weekend for quilts of valor, and I’m really excited for it!

Carol: I mean, they really appreciate it. Psychologists, Psychiatrists that are in the service branches, have noticed an extreme comfort that these quilts are giving people with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. They’ll have a homecoming, a workshop kind of a thing for these people, an they’ll be awarded a quilt, and these people wrap themselves in their quilts and it comforts them. It brings them out of nightmares at night just because they know that somebody else cared about them, a total stranger. We don;t use last names, we don’t expect thank yous, and part of that is Hipaa laws, because when you’re in the hospital it has to be private. So we have exact points of contacts where we send our quilts. You can’t just send it to Afghanistan or a hospital, you have to request a destination through Quilts of Valor to make sure it goes to the proper places.

Me: Well, it all sounds great.

Carol: We’re always looking for more people to become involved with either long-arming, donating, being a piece topper we can hook you up with a local long-armer. There are three options at the end. You can present the quilt to a local person, or somebody that you know. So the quilt would be returned to you for the binding, the label, and the presentation case. You can request a destination through the QOVF website and they will let you know where the quilt is needed. A lot of them are going to Germany, some to Korea, some to Afghanistan. If it isn’t red white and blue, you are supposed to let them know so then it would be taken and mailed to a large homecoming group. Minnesota doesn’t have any major bases, so like Texas just had a hundred quilt drive, Washington State just had a hundred quilt drive. They’ve got a whole platoon of guys coming back and they’re award their quilts. Here, we pretty much just award locally. Requests for anyone who wants a quilt comes through in the state and then we have two weeks to contact the family. I’ve got a few point of contacts throughout the state that will present quilts. The quilts are not mailed, they are presented in person with their name on them.

Me: Well that is a very nice personal touch to add. Instead of just mailing them out.

Carol. Exactly. It’s amazing the response that you see from these veterans. The first thin g we do when we have a Vietnam veteran is we thank them for their service and welcome them home, because they were the war heroes that never got a welcome home. Everyone else got a parade, but Vietnam kind of got spit on. A lot of them are telling us, that this is the first time they have been welcomed home. I’ve had a 90 year old person I presented a quilt to from Works War II, and he said that he went through D-day through the battle of the bulge and he didn’t get a medal, but he finally got an award, which was the quilt. He’s going to use it for fishing. He said it will bring him luck on the fishing boat. I mean, whatever they want to do is perfectly well, but there are a lot of really good stories coming out of it. It’s a good cause. I’ve had block exchanges, and everyone sends like 12 blocks, and I’ll divide them up and send them out, and people can make a sampler quilt and donate the top. There are drop offs at certain quilt shops throughout the sate will take a quilt, or you can drop it off their and we’ll pick it up, so you don’t have to mail it. The quilt shop in Elk River will have a mystery mystery quilt. They did one last year, and it went over pretty big, so they want to do one again this fall. We’re having a sew day September 7th at The Noble Quilter in Elk River. She picked out the block, it’s her pattern, and she won an award for this pattern. So, we’ll sew from 10 to 4 in the afternoon and we’ll see how many of these blocks and how many of these quilts we can make.

Me: That is impressive, and that takes a lot of dedication so I applaud everyone involved.

Carol: I think we should be able to get between 4 and 10 quilts depending on how many sewers we get. You know, I’ll do the 4 patches, and I’ll do this. You know, just work as a group. It’s our 10th anniversary block you can make and you can mail it in to the address. Right now we are sitting at about 4000 blocks. Our national conference is the last weekend in July, and we’ll divide what blocks we have now into the 50 states. So every 50 states will get a certain amount of blocks. You put on your name and your state, and I think we were missing like 4 states, otherwise everyone will have a quilt with all 50 states on them. I think they’re a 8.5 inch bock and it takes 56 blocks to make a quilt. It’ll be a fun quilt with all 50 states on it.

Me: That is very cool! I like that a lot.

Carol: Yeah, right now I’m working at a Brat and Burger Dinner at a VFW and part of the proceeds will go for quilts of valor and the quilting guild I’m working with. The town were this will ate place will donate 10 quilts and we’ll present them at the dinner. Then the money will be used to buy more materials and batting. Just to continue the mission. There are a lot of people to cover.

Me: Well I suppose that’s it for now, so thank you for sharing with me about Quilts of Valor.

Carol: Thanks for help spreading the word.

If you would like more information please contact Carol Olson at  carol.olson@QOVF.org 
Make sure to check out the Facebook Page as well!

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One Response to “Interview Series: Quilts of Valor”

  1. Barb July 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Great interview. Very informative and inspiring. Thank you both….

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