A campaign to provide wounded Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan came full-circle recently with the presentation of 37 Quilts of Valour by a group of women from Winfield, Buck Lake and Alder Flats to the chaplain of the Edmonton military garrison on Nov. 24.
Calling themselves the Mending Soldiers’ Spirits Group, the 15 to 20 members committed themselves to the project on Nov. 11, 2008 after a few discussions with the owners of an Edmonton-based quilting shop who became aware of the national organization after being contacted by a wounded soldier who had received a quilt.
“The idea was there before Nov. 11, but that was the day we started and our goal was to see how many quilts we could make in one year. Often, we would meet at the home of Sandra Glenn, who has a huge area of her home dedicated to making quilts, and we would meet there on a fairly regular basis and make the quilts,” said group coordinator Joni Pitzel.
“We do not know who is receiving the quilts. All we know is that they are injured military personnel and it’s just something that we all really believed in. I have to tell you that I’m amazed at some of these people,” she added. “Sandra Glenn herself made 125 of these quilts. Her daughter-in-law Donna made nine and her mother, Barb McLeod, made four, and that is a feat in itself because Barb suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed and has very limited mobility in her arm.”
As part of the process, quilters are required to include their name on a label and are also encouraged to include a stamped, self-addressed postcard with the quilt to allow the wounded soldier to make contact and let the quilter know who received it, if they so wish.
In a very poignant twist, while making their presentation of the quilts to Chaplain Laurelle Callaghan of the Edmonton base, the ladies of the group were introduced to a military press secretary who was covering the story for the armed forces and discovered that the secretary had been wounded in Afghanistan and was also presented with a quilt from another area of Canada.
According to Pitzel, the quilts are sent to Ottawa where they are further forwarded to wounded Canadian soldiers recovering in military hospitals in Germany or distributed to those who have returned home.
“We’ve been doing this in our own little way and not making a big noise so a lot of the people in the community don’t know what we’ve been doing,” Pitzel said. “So now that it’s going to be in the newspaper and that we’ve presented the quilts, hopefully we’ll get a few more people interested.”
To date, the group has received two cash donations for the project including one from the Alder Flats Legion and another from the Winfield Ag Society for the purchase of batting and backing material for the quilts however with the production of the 37 quilts to date, the funds are long gone. The individual ladies creating the quilts pay for additional material costs themselves.
If anyone is interested in joining the group, or would like to make a donation to the cause, they are invited to contact Pitzel at 780-388- 2393. For additional information, check out the Quilts of Valour Foundation online.