Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spotlight Sunday

This weeks Spotlight Sunday takes us to the West Coast... to the Deputy Director of Quilts of Valor... Lori !!!   Just so you know - Lori is modest.... and you can tell by her story - but she is a dynamo!! 

Sit back and enjoy!!!

Here is Lori!!! Love that sweatshirt you are sporting!!

Debbie and Lori
This story isn’t really about me, it is about the Quilts and those who have stood in harm’s way that receive them. Being part of the Quilts of Valor community has really taught me that quilts are magical, and being part of something so much greater than one’s self is truly life changing.

I have been sewing since I was a kid. I got my own sewing machine for my 16th birthday. I made most of my clothes while I was school age. I married young, so continued to sew because that was always a less expensive way to get things like clothing, curtains and home décor items. When I had a baby it was a really inexpensive way to keep her in cutesy outfits. Then I started having problems with my machine and just convinced myself I couldn’t sew! It was years I didn’t sew a stitch. Then my friend Debby convinced me it was the machine and not me. She said that if I got a good machine in good working order, I would be off and sewing again. She was so right. I started with a pretty bare bones basic machine and sewed so much I wore the poor little thing out. I traded up and purchased a little more elaborate machine. I sewed on that one for many years and I also invested in a serger. 

Now nearly 20 years later I have added a room onto my house to accommodate my addiction. It is a 15 by 16 foot sewing studio I designed. It has lots of cupboards, cabinets and counter space. It accommodates my 3 sewing tables and all my equipment nicely including my HQ16 by HandiQuilter.

I started making quilts about 20 or so years ago. Once again my friend Debby said “If I can do it you can do it!” I purchased a book called “Quilts in a Hurry” by Rita Weiss. The method is called strip piecing. Well I had success and the rest is just an obsession out of control!

How I found out about Quilts of Valor of course, was another adventure with my friend Debby. 

About 7 years ago we were looking around on the Internet for information about long arm machines. We came upon a web site for a long arm dealer in Michigan called Accomplish Quilting. On that site, was an appeal for quilters to make quilts for wounded soldiers. We agreed that quilting for soldiers was something we could do. So, we made our first Quilts of Valor and sent them off to Michigan to be added to the rest of the quilts collected by Accomplish Quilting. 

Then I got to thinking about… why were we sending our completed quilts to a long armer when we could be sending it some where direct? So once again I got on the Internet and Googled Quilts of Valor. I found the web site for the Quilts of Valor Foundation. There I read the story of Catherine Roberts a Blue Star Mom who wanted to do something for returning service people who had been wounded during their service in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

I e-mailed her for more information and she promptly responded. I started making Quilts of Valor, and with her direction sending them off directly to Military Hospitals across the country. I think I have made well over 400 now. I am averaging about one a week. I usually piece several and then I quilt a stack and then I work on the hand work. I always machine piece and quilt and then hem all the bindings by hand. I also hand stitch on my labels.  I send them off about 8 to 10 quilts in a shipment. I never tire of this project. It has truly become my passion. It is my goal to involve as many quilters as I can to quilt honor and comfort for those touched by war.

The first time we shared the Quilts of Valor story with the local Quilt Guild was about 6 or 7 years ago. Debby and I thought QOV was an awesome project and that of course they would jump at the chance to help. I have to say that the response was temped at best. But Debby and I just kept at it. Because we knew at some point we would wear them down and get them to sew for the cause. We knew we had to get more volunteers to help cover those touched by war. 

In late March that year, the Wenatchee World published an article about us and the Quilts of Valor project. That story was picked up by a few other papers and it also was published on the Internet. 

The phone started ringing and interest started growing. We made “How to get started!” information sheets and made them available everywhere we could think of that had anything to do with sewing or fabric. Interest continued to grow. We also got local quilt shops to sponsor and host “QOV Community Sew Days”. Block packets were made available at the stores and guild meetings and the finished blocks started coming back to the quilt shops. I am still getting calls from interested quilters and blocks continue to come in. We also receive donated fabric from retired quilters who still want to help. 

Lori, Al, and Catherine

Our sew days have evolved into “Veteran’s sewing for Veteran’s. After a large presentation a year ago December many of the veteran’s who received quilts wanted to help. It didn’t see right to take their money so we asked them to come and learn to sew. We were pleased with the result! Over the past year they have made 25 quilts. 

I take the QOVF story with me where ever I go.  “How to get started information”, brochures and the “bare bones requirements” are always in my purse. When I am on vacation I go to all the fabric stores and quilt shops I can find and spread the word. I also get on the Internet and e-mail quilt shops and quilt guilds to spread the importance of our mission.  I have shared the QOV message with all my friends and family and they help spread the word as well. I call it the ripple effect. It is working!

I have been truly blessed to hear from 40 recipients of my quilts. The first one was a phone call. I was very emotional when I heard the phone message. I called him back and we spent 15 or 20 minutes chatting. I was so overwhelmed that I was talking to one of my Heroes I didn’t think to ask any questions. It is a good thing my husband was home to coach me. I learned that he had been in the Marine Corps. Then sometime after his discharge served in the Army for several years. He had served multiple tours in the Middle East. He was proud to serve his country. He was recovering from his wounds but faced more surgeries to correct some damage in the spine. He was so pleased to have received a quilt and to know that some one cared. 

The other letters I have received have been the same type of response. They are surprised that someone cares and they are glad to know they have support. Some share stories of the incident when they were wounded. Some share what they are doing now, and some share personal information. They say that their hearts were touched and some say they were brought to tears in receiving a tangible gift of thanks. I always get weepy when I read their letters because I am just so pleased that they take the time to contact me. It is just a huge bonus to this project. 

I certainly don’t do this to get anything back. I do this as “thank you” to those who are willing to stand in harm’s way and risk their lives to protect me, my family, my country and my freedom. The only reason I seek publicity at all is certainly not for myself but to spread the word and get others interested to helping the cause.

It is important to me that these service members and veterans get a thank you, because of what happened to both my brothers, and how terribly they were treated upon their return from serving their country. They are both Vietnam Veterans. They both have service related injuries and disabilities. When they returned home there was no gratitude, honor or celebration by our Nation. There was no support or appreciation. My oldest brother was actually spit on in an airport. They have had struggles getting support from the Veterans Administration and I won’t even go into the struggle for benefits. This just can’t happen again. Not to anyone. Not on my watch! This is why I quilt for the cause.

I have done lots of volunteer work in my time. I have been the Chapter Chairman for March of Dimes; I have volunteered for Make a Difference Day, Habitat for Humanity, for the Red Cross. I have even donated my hair to Locks of Love. But nothing has been as rewarding and as my Quilts of Valor journey. 

I have met lots of outstanding and interesting people. It has just been wonderful. It has truly touched and changed my life to know that something as simple as stitching a quilt, some thing I love to do, can heal someone’s heart and spirit.

My Mother used to always tell me
 “Your talents are gifts from God; how you use those talents is your gift to God.” 
So this whole thing is just the giving of a gift.

Thank you SO much Lori!! You are a great inspiration. Hope you all enjoyed getting to know her a little better!!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing with us Lori. You are an inspiration to our group. Wish there were not so many miles between our 'studios'. It would be so much fun to 'rub sewing shoulders' with you. I could use some of your energy and organization!
    Thanks for all you do for our beloved QOV community!