July 13, 2013 in Washington Voices

Patchwork project

As a CV teacher and reservist prepares for another deployment, a co-worker hopes to sew quilts for him and the rest of his unit
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Ellin Schafer, 15, above, and her mother, Carolyn, assemble a quilt at their home in Spokane Valley on Tuesday. Carolyn Schafer is organizing a quilting drive for the members of Mason Flemmer’s unit. Flemmer, the orchestra teacher at Central Valley, is being deployed for the third time to Afghanistan.
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Coming up

 Schafer will hold a quilting work day at Central Valley High School, 821 S. Sullivan Road, Tuesday at 9 a.m. She said she will have some fabric and supplies, but anyone interested in helping should bring what they can. For more information, email Schafer at clskps@gmail.com.

The quilt Carolyn Schafer has been working on includes blocks sewn together by some of her students at Central Valley High School.

It’s one of 140 quilts that will be shipped this fall to the 455th Engineer Company stationed in Afghanistan.

One of the members of that unit is Capt. Mason Flemmer, an Army reservist who’s also the orchestra teacher at CV and Greenacres Middle School.

Schafer teaches family and consumer science at CV – what was once known as home economics. It’s now a career and technical education class, so she doesn’t teach quilting, but teaches a fabrics and apparel class in which students spent time making quilt blocks. While they were sewing them, Schafer thought they could be sewn into something like a pillow case or quilt and given to a nonprofit organization.

However, Flemmer received word he would be deployed – it’s the third time he has been deployed since he started working for the school district. Schafer heard about it through her daughter, Ellin, who plays violin in the CV orchestra.

“He always calls us the ‘dork-estra,’ ” Ellin said with a smile.

Schafer saw Flemmer at the copy machine soon after she heard the news and asked what she could do for him. He mentioned it would be great if every member of his unit received a quilt.

She now has 20 confirmed volunteers to sew 140 twin-size quilts – that’s seven quilts each. The quilt blocks Schafer’s students made are going into Flemmer’s quilt.

“We need help,” she said.

She’s received some fabric donations, but needs more. For every quilt, she needs 9 to 12 yards of fabric plus batting. When the quilts are finished, she’ll need help to pay for shipping.

While the quilt she is working on for Flemmer has a patriotic – and CV colors – theme, she said others can be any color, pattern or fabric. She also said if you can sew a straight line you can help – you don’t have to have experience in quilting.

Schafer said that when Ellin asked to play the violin when she was in fifth grade, her initial reaction was to say no – she was involved in a lot of activities at the time and it was going to be just “one more thing.” Her husband turned to her and asked, “Have you ever had a naughty orchestra kid?”

The students spend a lot of their time in the music room. At the end-of-the-year concert, Flemmer dressed in a tuxedo and played “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber with the orchestra.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the crowd,” Schafer said, noting that for 15- or 16-year-old students, it’s very sobering to realize that their teacher might not be coming back.

He also rented an inflatable arm-waving tube man as a guest conductor for a song. Schafer said that was on his bucket list.

She said it is easy to forget about the men and women who fight for our freedom as we go about our days. From half a world away, there is a feeling of helplessness for the people we know and can’t do much for them.

Schafer hopes the quilts will give the soldiers in Flemmer’s unit some comfort.

“People totally forget we have boots on the ground in harm’s way,” she said.


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