The Southeastern Wisconsin Quilts of Valor sewing group meets the 4th Saturday of each month (except December) to piece and quilt. We are a small but creative, dedicated, and enthusiastic group. Being a small group located in an area with no nearby major military installation, we have focussed on local Veterans who seem to "fly under the radar."
Through our participation in a 2010 Veteran's Day ceremony recognizing Milwaukee County employees who also served in the armed forces and are touched by war, we connected with two organizations providing outreach services to local Veterans. Dry Hootch is a new outreach via a coffee shop atmosphere to Veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dry Hootch coordinates and collaborates with Center for Veterans Issues which began in 1969 with outreach to Vietnam Veterans. The Center for Veterans Issues provides supportive services and housing to homeless Veterans in order for them to obtain employment and a decent place to live. When a homeless Veteran agrees to participate in the array of services offered via a case management system, the Veteran can live in the shelter for up to two years as long as the Veteran continues to progress toward independence.
One day Tink and I dropped by the administrative offices of the Center for Veterans Issues with a couple of Quilts of Valor. We picked up more information on the programs and services and did a "show & tell" for the receptionist and anyone in the immediate area who cared to listen. We left information we've compiled on Quilts of Valor and contact information with the receptionist. This drop-by got us the name and contact information for the manager of the residential programs and left people buzzing about Quilts of Valor.
Our follow-up contact with the residential program manager secured an invitation to tour the recently opened shelter for female Veterans in the Fall, 2011. Again, we arrived with Quilts of Valor to "show & tell" the story of QOV. We also had a small donated wall-hanging quilt featuring homes in a neighborhood that we presented to the program manager to hang in the new shelter. At that time seven (7) females were already residing in the just opened shelter. We said we wanted to take the information we gathered back to our QOV quilting group to share and explain the need for these female Veterans to know that their service and their sacrifices matter and are deeply appreciated by this community. Knowing there were women Veterans who lived part of their lives on the streets touched us all deeply. When the QOV quilting group heard of this unmet need, they enthusiastically agreed to work on this special project.
Since quilts do not come together overnight - except for the insomniacs amongst us - and since life intervenes in unforeseen ways, it was April 2012 before we made further contact with the residential program manager. We learned there are now eleven female Veterans in the shelter and one child under the age of 7 living with her Veteran mother. We planned for a presentation of Quilts of Valor just prior to Mother's Day at the Veterans Manor which opened about a year ago. It has a community room ideal for such a presentation.
We hung our Quilts of Valor banner and a Valiant Eagle quilt as a backdrop for the presentation in the community room. As the Veterans gathered, it was clear they did not know what to expect. Also, in attendance were several case managers and one of the founding members of the Center for Veterans Issues. The program about the history and mission of Quilts of Valor preceded the presentation of QOVs to the Veterans. The smiles in the accompanying photographs tell the rest of the story.
From initial contacts and conversations, it took almost 18 months to coordinate a presentation of these eleven QOVs. Developing contacts and creating trusting relationships takes time, perseverance, and patience. There are four (4) male Veteran shelters in the area and we have developed the kind of relationship that will allow us to create QOVs for these Veterans in shelters as we are able to do so.
Submitted by Dick Linhart