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Soothing the wounded with quilts

July 13, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

alician@herald-mail.com

The scene was reminiscent of one from a war tale of days gone by. A small group of women assembled to painstakingly craft quilts for wounded soldiers returning from battle.

But the scene was not long ago. It was just Sunday, July 11, and the women were gathered at Howard's Art Supplies & Frames in Hagerstown. Together, they made quilts for U.S. soldiers who have been wounded in Iraq and who will be arriving at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, Md.

Ellen Collins of Hagerstown, a member of the Friendship Quilters Guild and coordinator of Sunday's gathering, said she heard about the opportunity to show support and appreciation for wounded troops through Peggy Cushwa, another local quilter. Cushwa had been contacted by Shirley Mandler, a member of the Quilt Guild of Southern Maryland, who is participating in the project known as Quilts for Soldiers.

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Collins said Mandler had sent out a mass e-mail to all her quilting acquaintances stating that 40 to 50 wounded soldiers were arriving almost daily at Andrews Air Force Base from Iraq. Mandler said quilters in her local guild in Waldorf, Md. had been providing quilts to soldiers as they arrived by airplane, but the group grew unable to keep up with the demand.

"I was heartbroken to learn that the quilts were being given to only the most seriously wounded, and the lightly wounded were being passed by," Collins said.

She said she presented the project idea to members of the Friendship Quilters Guild - which has about 65 members from the Hagerstown area - at its June meeting and received an enthusiastic response.

Mary Poscover of Hagerstown, a quilter who participated in Sunday's gathering, said she wanted to provide some quilts for the troops because people hear about soldiers who have died, but don't seem to be aware of those who have been wounded.

"The wounded have to live with that forever," Collins added.

Two completed quilts hung on the wall as the women steadily ironed, basted, pieced and stitched their red, white and blue fabrics into creations at least 36 inches by 36 inches in size. The group hoped to have five or six quilts by the end of the day so they could be sent off this week.

Colette Beaver, dubbed "Queen of Batting" by her quilting peers, said she would take whatever quilt tops remained unfinished at the end of the day Sunday and quilt them at home.

"These guys do a lot for us," Beaver said. "This is the least I can do."

Collins said in addition to the half-dozen quilters who participated in the project Sunday, a number of others who were unable to attend are making quilts on their own time. She said she hopes area quilters will ultimately produce "at least one day's worth," meaning 40 to 50 quilts.

Collins said quilters are welcome to drop off their quilts for soldiers at Howard's Art Supplies & Frames on Dual Highway, which Collins owns with her husband Roger, and she will ship them to Mandler.

"The push is to get them into the hands of the wounded - it doesn't matter how," Collins said.

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