County group stitching up hugs for vets

Local quilting club makes 241 quilts for veterans

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Standing left to right are members of Quilts of Valor, Laura Sylvester, Judith Turner, Darlene Mitchell, and Shauna Hull. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

By Carol Mowdy Bond
Contributing Writer

In the past 3 1/2 years, a Canadian County Quilts of Valor group has made 241 quilts and gifted them to military veterans.

With Laura Sylvester leading the quilting group members, who are primarily Piedmont residents, the quilters make quilts for veterans in the greater metropolitan area, from Canadian County to Duncan, Choctaw, Guthrie, and Edmond.

Sylvester said their nonprofit group, founded January 2018, takes care of its own funding.

“We have 14 quilters in our group. We make hand-made, high quality quilts. Each of our members pieces together a quilt top. We each do as many quilt tops as quickly as we want. And we each pay for that part, which can run anywhere from $30 to $100 per quilt, depending on materials. Plus our time is involved,” Sylvester said.

Then, each time the group meets, they pool their money to purchase the batting and backing for each quilt.

“I do the quilting. I have a long arm quilting machine that was donated to our group. Last year we gave a quilt to a man who was seriously mistreated by Americans when he returned from Vietnam. His name was Don Rubley. Americans had spat on him, and urinated on his military gear. He was very disgruntled. We gave him a quilt. It moved him, and it was healing for him. So, he asked us what we needed. He said, ‘If you can do for more vets what you’ve done for me, you need to make as many quilts as you can,’” Sylvester said.

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Rubley purchased a computerized quilt machine for the group. “That’s what I use to do the actual quilting for each quilt. He passed away February 2020. The machine arrived just after he passed,” Sylvester said.

The quilts are often given to veterans at a ceremony. However, in some cases, the quilters may surprise a veteran by bringing the quilt to him or her at a location where that person may be.

“We love quilting and we love veterans. Giving a person a quilt is like giving a hug. And the quilts we make are a symbol of comfort and healing for those who have been touched by war. We’ve made an impact in their lives with the support we’ve tried to give them,” Sylvester said.

In Oklahoma, there are five Quilts of Valor groups, and they are part of the National Quilts of Valor Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to cover service members and veterans, touched by war, with comforting and healing quilts of valor. The focus is to cover all nominees as quickly as possible in the order received. But certain factors are taken into consideration during the prioritization process, including era of service, life circumstances, and health. Sylvester said there is a large backlog throughout the U.S. of nominees who are waiting to receive their quilts.

People may go onto the web site and nominate veterans to receive quilts.

To nominate a veteran to receive a quilt, or to connect with Quilts of Valor, go to the national web site at http://www.qovf.org.

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