A unique honor for veterans will take place on Sunday at Lebanon Baptist Church as Quilts of Valor comes to the church.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation’s mission statement is “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”
“Basically, our mission is to cover all veterans and service people affected by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor,” said Kathleen Van Orsdel, a QOV representative based in Jefferson County. “Because the quilt is a tangible item, there are veterans with post traumatic stress disorder issues that perhaps being able to hang on to something in a time of need really fills the bill.”
“I’ve had veterans in tears when they received one. I know it’s touching them at a time when they can’t put it into words. They’re not expecting or deserving it, but I’m going to give it to them anyway,” she said. “We will be giving 13 veterans quilts that day. If 12 show up, I’m not just going to leave it for the individual. I don’t give a quilt, I will award it.”
Van Orsdel went to a QOV conference several years ago and heard a story about soldiers returning from deployment to a room full of quilts. The soldiers were encouraged to pick one from the many quilts in the room.
“They were led into a room and it had all of these quilts,” she said. “It was just given, not awarded. The awarding makes so much difference in the way you feel. Last year our local group based in Jefferson County awarded 153 quilts.”
Van Orsdel’s group sews out of Jefferson County with several Hamblen County ladies.
“We started in 2011 with me and another lady and awarded seven quilts that year,” she said. “In 2012, we went with six ladies and awarded 17 Quilts of Valor. As my numbers have grown with my ladies, we’ve obviously been able to reach out to more veterans.”
More than 200,000 quilts have been awarded by QOV volunteers in all 50 states.
Quilts of Valor began in 2003 when founder Catherine Roberts’ son, Nat, was deployed in Iraq.
One night, Roberts had a dream as she saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The man had a feeling of utter despair. His war demons were clustered around, dragging him into an emotional gutter. The next scene, as in viewing a movie, had the man wrapped in a quilt. Thanks to that quilt, his demeanor had changed to one of despair to one of hope and wellbeing. The lesson of the dream was that quilts equal healing.
The first quilts were awarded in November, 2003 to a young soldier at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He had lost his leg in Iraq.
Now, volunteers volunteer their time, labor and materials for each quilt.
“Roberts started out with one person and one quilt and now more than 217,000 quilts have been awarded. From what I understand, there are more than 4,000 quilters, people who are volunteering their time, money, materials and efforts to reach out the veterans,” Van Orsdel said.
Van Orsdel is fortunate that she applied for a grant last year and was able to provide her group with materials to make blankets.
“That’s not everybody or every group,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate in that respect. I go up to the quilt shop in Dandridge We support local businesses when we can.”
When the veterans get the quilts, some don’t use them, but Van Orsdel tells them to use the quilts.
“That’s not the intent. I want them to use it, I want them to feel the love and comfort. Each quilt at a minimum $250. That is coming out of somebody’s pocket. Ninety percent of the quilts will be distributed in Jefferson County,” she said.
Her Quilts of Valor group meets at First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City on the third Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bring your sewing machine and your lunch,” she said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be able to provide the things you need to work on. I’ve got a lady supposed to be coming from Knoxville to my next meeting. She saw me working on a quilt at my husband’s doctor’s appointment. If people want to travel, I’ll be there,” Van Orsdel said.
In addition, there is a group in Parrotsville with seven people who do quilts.
“Our group is the biggest,” she said. “I’ve got 39 in our group. It makes a difference in how many quilts you can make.”
For more, contact Van Orsdel at 865-674-8185 or via Email at email@example.com.