Volunteers Make Quilts for Kids

By K.L. Vantran

Every Thursday, and some Saturdays, volunteers at Fort Lewis, Wash., lug sewing machines to the Army Community Service building so they can create quilts for children of those deployed in the war on terrorism.

About 18 months ago, Marty Alexander, library technician for the Fort Lewis Library System, saw a sample of a cuddle quilt on TV. An avid quilter, Alexander said she went about making one. It took her four hours.

Alexander said she thought if she could get an assembly line going, she’d be in business. She talked with Mary Herrera, chief of family services, Army Community Service. Donna Arias, a financial planner at ACS, joined the team, and the "Quilts for Kids" program began. Since then, about 90 children have received the lap quilts.

"When the war started, I got to thinking about all the kids whose parents would be going away," said Alexander. "I wanted to do something for them."

In the beginning, about 20 volunteers answered the call, said Herrera. "People brought in their own sewing machines," she said. "Some donated fabric. It was really nice."

Alexander said they’ve received several donations of material and batting to include more than 50 yards of washed and ironed material from one individual.

Quite a few reservists stationed at Madigan Army Medical Center pitched in, said Alexander. "You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a lieutenant colonel rip out seams with a pocket knife," she added with a laugh.

Today, about six stalwarts keep the program going.

Making a quilt involves purchasing the fabric, laundering, ironing, cutting and sewing, said Herrera.

Volunteers’ experience ranges from the novice to expert. "People could do what they were comfortable with for as long as they liked," said Herrera. "And someone with no experience could be paired with a quilter from way back."

Most of the recipients have been young children, said Herrera. "We’ve given quilts to newborns (and to) chronically ill and hospitalized children, but mostly to kindergartners and third- and fourth-graders," she added.

Herrera said each child has been very appreciative when receiving a quilt.

Alexander said while making quilts takes quite a bit of time, there are many rewards.

She recalled the day a mother and her son came to the library to thank them for a quilt.

"It was one of the hottest days of the summer," she said. "And the little boy was carrying his quilt. He wouldn’t give it up." Afterward, Alexander said she went into the bathroom and cried.