24 October 2011

Quilters touch the hearts of wounded warriors

Groton Women's Club member Jill McCaffrey stands by one of the quilts she made that will be sent over to Germany for the Blankets of Hope Project. Photo: Sun/David H. Brow.

Soldiers warm up to Groton quilts

By Hiroko Sato of the Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/22/2011

GROTON -- Scouring for gorgeous red, white and blue fabric at stores is Jill McCaffrey's way of showing her patriotism.

Whatever sewing project she may be shopping for, McCaffrey would always be looking for star and flag prints from the corner of her eye. She would spread pieces of those and other fabric fellow quilters from the Groton Woman's Club brought over to the tables at the Groton Senior Center to put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Before long, tri-color 42-inch-by-54-inch blankets with a handwritten thank-you note to soldiers stitched on would be shipped out to keep severely wounded men and women in uniform warm on their way to Germany for treatment.

Those who wear the blankets feel the quilters' prayers. One thank-you card from a soldier sent to Groton Woman's Club President Susan Slade said it all: "My parents could not be here but you were here for me. I will never forget you for that."

After touching the hearts of more than 200 injured soldiers, the club recently received a special award from Soldiers' Angels, a California-based national nonprofit organization that runs the Blankets of Hope project to provide soldiers with quilts made by volunteers.

"I have been holding this secret until now," Slade said as she unveiled the angel-shaped crystal trophy yesterday.

"I'm like a proud mama," she said, looking at the 15 quilters lining up to applause. With 229 quilts already made, "we are on our way to 300," Slade said.

The Groton Woman's Club recently received the Crystal Wing Award, a national award the Soldiers' Angels gives out to groups and individuals who have gone "above and beyond the call of angels." The nonprofit was founded in 2003 by Patti Patton-Bader, mother of Army Sgt. Brandon Varn, to provide aid and comfort to members of the armed forces and their families. After hearing the organization was looking for blankets for wounded soldiers in 2007, Slade and other members asked for sewing volunteers. They quickly stepped forward and began making quilts with member Jan Dillon serving as coordinator.

Founded in 1913 as a service organization, the Groton Woman's Club has provided helping hands to whomever needs them, ranging from the bandage-making and other relief work during World War I to making meals for seniors. The club, comprised of more than 80 active members living in Groton, is also known for its annual holiday green sale to raise funds for scholarships for local students.

The Crystal Angel Award was given to recognize the quilters for having made and sent 100 quilts by June 2009 and 200 by May 2011, Slade said. So far, the quilters have made 217 blankets with 12 more ready to be shipped. One was donated to the Devens Museum.

The quilters said they never expected to receive an award. Besides, "I never thought we would still need to make them," Dillon said.

Mildred Wells, a quilter of 25 years who used to make bridal gowns and did other sewing work for people, has a 20-year-old grandson who recently joined the Army. While he is not deployed, another grandson of hers fought in Iraq before, and Wells knows too well how families feel about their soldiers. "It's such a pleasure to do."

The quilters said they are thrilled to receive the award.

"It's nice to know it's going somewhere there is a need," McCaffrey said.

Inscription on the 200th quilt made by the Groton Woman's Club and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Signatures of the quilters from the Groton Woman's Club on the 200th quilt made and sent to Soldiers' Angels at Landstuhl hospital for patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

We're honored to stand with the Groton Woman's Club in support of our wounded warriors. Thank you for your patriotism, compassion, and dedication to those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. You deserve those Crystal Wings!

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