For three years, a group of women in Minford have been busy with a project to honor the nation's fallen heroes - the Home of the Brave quilt project.
Not all the women are members of the Harrison Freewill Baptist Church, but every Wednesday morning they meet in the church's Fellowship Hall to cut and sew stockings, pillowcases and quilts.
Pat Smith, Pat Mays and Sharon Pick are co-coordinators on several projects for the troops overseas.
Some of the women are retired, and most of them work on the projects at home, also.
“We would welcome more people to come and help,” Mays said.
The goal is to make a quilt for families of military men and women who have been killed in the line of duty. The group has made 18 for Ohio, including one for Jonathan Etterling's family in Wheelersburg.
“To my knowledge, ... we have 115 fallen heroes in Ohio right now,” Smith said.
Smith's husband was a recruiter in Portsmouth for five years and after he got out of the military, they returned to the area and retired here. Living a military life, she said she knows how important it is to let families know that there are people who care about their loss.
All of the quilts are based on a Civil War quilt design that northern women made for the troops with nine patches on each block made into a diamond shape. The fabrics are all Civil War reproductions in greens, blue indigo, purples, browns, golds - colors popular in the mid-1800s.
The project was started by Donald Beld, a quilter in California. His group, the Citrus Belt Quilters in Redlands, Calif., wanted to do something for the local wounded from Iraq. Beld suggested they make replicas of the Civil War soldiers' quilts, known as “Sanitary Commission Quilts” to present to families of fallen heroes. The project began to spread throughout California and then the United States.
“We now have 55 groups in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Australia making quilts for the families,” Beld said. “To date we have distributed approximately 1,700 quilts to the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan and other military casualties when requested.”
Smith is the national honorary coordinator and she helps chapters get started in other states by sending them blocks and tops to begin with.
The names of the people who made and helped pay for the quilt are added to each one. The local group even made a quilt for Gov. Bob Taft with each of the fallen heroes' names. It is hanging in the statehouse in Columbus, Smith said.
The Home of the Brave quilt project is not the only one the women in Minford work on. They also have adopted Project Linus - making blankets for seriously ill or traumatized children. In southern Ohio, the group has made and given out 2,636 quilts.
Another project is “Operation Holiday.” Mays, of Minford, began the project while in a forum on about.com. A woman wanted to know if anyone would be interested in sending stockings and pillowcases to the troops in Iraq.
“There were ladies from all over the United States that were doing this,” Mays said.
The project took off, and when she told the Minford group about it, she said they wanted to help. People from all across the United States from the about.com forum send boxes of fabric scraps so that the women can make stockings and Project Linus quilts.
“My husband has a Web site and we post samples of the quilts we make with their fabric so they can see it,” Mays said.
They also have help from Thomas Sewing Center in Greenup, Ky. Each time a quilt is donated, people are included in a drawing for a new Janome sewing machine. This year, Mays won a sewing machine in the drawing.
“We have gotten over 600 blankets at one time from Thomas Sewing Center,” Smith said. “They're helping out by giving away a free sewing machine and we get all the blankets.”
One year, the group adopted the 514th in Fort Hood, Texas, sending them Christmas stockings filled with all kinds of supplies donated from Valley Middle School, Minford Middle School and the church.
“Those guys are without personal hygiene products, toothpaste, and they don't have the luxuries we have,” Smith said.
Foot powder is very needed, she said. Food must be prepackaged to be mailed. Last year the group made 420 stockings.
Smith made 65 of those and enclosed a Christmas card in each one. Most of the women sew stockings and pillowcases at home and bring them in every week.
“I just want them to know that they are my heroes,” Smith said. “My husband was in Vietnam for three years and he never even got a handshake. I don't want these troops to have that happen to them. I spearheaded this to let them know that somebody cares.”
The first year the group formed, the ladies sent gifts to the 126th Engineering Battalion out of Portsmouth.
Students made Christmas cards and the women's group sent more than 300 Beanie Babies for the troops to give to children in Iraq.
“We sent them to the hospitals, the MASH unit,” Smith said.
The troops will put Beanie Babies in their pockets, she said, and if they meet a child out in the town or in the field, or if they are brought into the hospital, they will give them a Beanie Baby.
They also make quilt blankets for the Counseling Center Rehabilitation Center for Boys.
“Those boys need to know that somebody cares,” Smith said. “When they leave that farm setting, they will know somebody cares when they look at that blanket and not to fall back on their old habits.”
Five wall hangings are on their way to Kuwait to decorate a clinic for a doctor who saw the group's Web site at www.americasupportsyou.mil. The doctor sees everyone who leaves Iraq with combat stress problems, and she appealed to the Minford women to help “liven up” the blank white walls in the clinic.
“It makes you feel good to know that you're helping the soldiers,” Mays said. “I've actually gotten e-mails from some of them thanking us. So it's been a blessing to us as well as them. I think you always get more than you give back.”
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or email@example.com.