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By David Knopf, News Editor
Laurel Kindley had seen the Quilts of Valor booths at the quilting shows she attended, but says she didn’t know much about it.
The national organization’s message began to get through when Kindley saw a show on Public Television. According to the program, the idea was to provide lap quilts to a special group of returning vets: those who’d spent time in a war zone.
The PBS show featured video of a quilt being presented to a veteran who responded with deep emotion to the gesture of appreciation.
“It just touched me and I thought, ‘I have to do something,’ ” said Kinley, owner of Richmond’s All About Quilting shop on Wollard Boulevard.
Quilts of Valor made an even more personal connection in 2011 when Kindley made a quilt for her nephew, Mikel Cope, an army veteran whose job was defusing roadside bombs in Afghanistan.
“He wasn’t wounded, but he was in several explosions and it affected him,” Kindley said. “They really mean a lot to these servicemen and women.”
Since it was founded in 2003, Quilts of Valor has presented specially themed lap quilts to more than 67,000 service people who’d been in a war zone.
The quilts are designed around military themes – images of stars, stripes and military insignias – and patriotic shades of red, white and blue.
“Our first priority is the wounded soldier overseas,” said Kindley, a Rayville-area resident who’s had her shop since 2007, “but we do try to given quilts to returning personnel when they get back.”
Soldiers who have been hospitalized after being wounded or injured face circumstances where kind gestures become high priorities.
“They’re all alone over there,” said Kindley, who will host an organizational meeting next Tuesday for a Richmond Quilts of Valor group. “They don’t have family to visit them. When they get one of those quilts, they’re really touched.”
Although the program is for veterans who’ve returned from a war zone, it isn’t limited to personnel who have been on Iraq and Afghanistan deployments.
The idea, Kindley said, is to reach veterans who would benefit from being comforted and appreciated.
“I heard about a Vietnam vet who’d been there a couple of times and when he got back he just put everything in a box and put it away,” she said. “When he got one of these quilts, he took it all out and could begin the healing procress. Even now that gives me goosebumps.”
Kindley said the soldier had not been able to talk about what he’d been through until he was presented with a quilt.
She was convinced enough by the worthiness of the Quilts of Valor mission that when a call went out for state coordinators Kindley said she became interested. Missouri was among the states without a coordinator, and after talking to other participants she was convinced to take on the responsibility.
As coordinator, Kindley is the contact person for anyone in Missouri who knows of a recipient who would benefit from a quilt. She is also the person who solicits donations of quilting materials, presentation pillow cases and money for postage.
Locally, Kindley said she’d like to work with groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion.
All of the materials that go into the quilts – the quilt tops, backs, batting, thread and labels – are donated, as is the labor.
“My goal right now with a group here in Richmond is to have some fundraisers,” she said. “I am looking for recipients. I’m looking for people to help me with some of the work like putting in labels” and sewing.
To learn more about the non-profit organization Quilts of Valor, to the group’s Web site at www.qovf.org.
Kindley will host an organizational meeting for a Ray County group at her shop next Tuesday at 10 a.m. She can be reached at 816-868-5246 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.