We are well into the cold and, occasionally, snowy days of November. It’s Thanksgiving month and Veterans Day has just passed. One group has found the ideal way to thank a veteran by covering them with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.

The local chapter of the national and international Quilts of Valor Foundation chartered in April of this year, a natural outgrowth of a group in central Nebraska created by an Alliance woman’s sister, now led by a Hemingford woman’s daughter. It appears a match made in quilting heaven.

Kathy Dye is the local leader of the Panhandle Blocks group of about seven or eight in the Panhandle, the only group west of Kearney in Nebraska. There are five chapters in Wyoming and only one in South Dakota.

About three years ago, Dye got snowed in at her parent’s during the holidays. Her sister put her to work piecing quilt squares and she was hooked. “God put it on my heart,” she said. Each time she attends a presentation, her faith in the group’s God-work is renewed.

Presentations, sometimes made in public venues, but often in private – at a family dinner or even a hospital bedside – are touching affairs. Dye said she cried when the Hemingford Junior Legion Auxiliary presented a Quilt of Valor to Hemingford High School vo-ag teacher Gordon Karney at an all-school assembly last week.

Dye said while she grew up as a farm girl in a quilting family, she had never pieced a quilt before. She’d taken part in embroidering blocks, but putting an entire quilt together is project for many hands.  Groups, clubs and individuals might donate individual blocks, other groups sew them together and some volunteers use the longarm sewing machine to finish the quilting. Still others hand quilt the tops, backing and batting between together with tiny intricate stitching of their own making.

“They give their best, so we give our best,” Dye said when I inquired why the tops aren’t simply tied together as many more amateur quilters are able to do. The QOVF has standards for quilts given through their program. Red, white and blue fabrics are not a prerequisite, but most recipients, given a choice, choose a patriotic theme.

Patterns and blocks can be of any design and the QOV offers patterns free for charter members to download. Fabric weight must be a high quality 100% cotton, with particular folds and seams for the binding, as well.

During our Sunday afternoon conversation, Dye was binding a quilt by hand, a task she often carries with her – one quilt rode around in a basket in her pickup to take advantage of short bits of sewing time between errands and chores. The finished quilts are presented in a formal fashion, too.

Nationally, the QOVF has presented more than 200,757 quilts so far. They had planned their 200,000th quilt to be presented in November, Dye said. But, Veterans Day came early in this case with the 200,000th quilt finished in October. Each chapter took advantage of the momentum to present a 200,000th memorial quilt in November; the Panhandle’s quilt to Karney.

Natasha Schumacher, leader of the legion kid’s group, has supervised children creating blocks at Pat’s Creative, a nationally-recognized quilting shop near Hemingford. She oversaw the children in the presentation of Karney’s quilt last week.

Detailed in this week’s Hemingford Ledger, the AmericanLegion Riders greeted students, staff and members of the public with a displayof flags and HHS seniors handed out smaller flags to all elementary students. LegionPost #9 Chaplain Troy Sorensen, a veteran of the Iraq war, delivered theinvocation and masters of ceremony were HHS seniors Koby Coryell and LaurenGasseling.

Following some Veteran’s Day music, veterans Alan Danbom and Lyle Fodnes spoke of the Veterans Honor Flight, then Schumacher presented the quilt to Karney. Her junior reps are 10, 11 and 12, all students at Hemingford Elementary. Schumacher said the quilt is meant to be used. “The more it is used the softer and more beautiful it will become,” she said.

Dye said her first QOV award ceremony was to a father and son duo near Alliance, Ray and Warren Crawford. “I had seen video and heard about presentations,” she said. “I knew they were very powerful, but seeing their reaction, I wanted to go home and thread my needle (to start another quilt).

Dye and her daughter Alyssa Dye will present a program atthe Alliance Public Library this evening, Thursday, November 15, at 7 p.m.

The QOV’s core values read like a list of standards we might all emulate: treat people with respect, promote excellence, value service over self and be accountable. The quilts represent more than a warm blanket on a cold, snowy November day. They provide literal comfort and healing as the foundation’s vision states.

It’s a nice opportunity to say thank you to our veterans, but I’d also like to thank these ladies who give so much of their time to honor the men and women who served.

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