A closetful of red, white and blue quilts in North Spokane will soon be delivered to veterans on the island of Molokai, more than 2,000 miles away.
These Quilts of Valor are a labor of love for the Garland QOV group and an idea that came to member Cherrie Takenaka during a recent visit to the island.
Takenaka, a retired nurse practitioner turned professional quilter, visits Hawaii regularly with her husband, but until March had never been to Molokai.
“Molokai was always on my bucket list,” she said.
While there she attended services at Calvary Chapel and struck up a conversation with the pastor. She asked him about the veteran population on the island and was surprised to learn there were approximately 200 veterans living on the 38- by 10-mile island.
She immediately asked if they’d received Quilts of Valor and the pastor said he would inquire.
“By the time I got home I had an email,” she said. “The VFW had provided a list of veterans. Only five had received quilts.”
Takenaka discovered the Quilts of Valor program when she resumed quilting after retirement.
“I took my first quilting class in 1986,” she said.
However, she quickly realized that between raising her two daughters and working, she simply didn’t have time for the hobby.
“I put everything away and 20 years later, I dug out the quilt, finished it and I’ve been quilting ever since!”
Indeed, when she invested in a long arm quilting machine, quilting became more than a casual pastime.It became a business: Cherrypickin Quilts.
But she also wanted to use her passion to give back, and the focus of Quilts of Valor spoke to her. The program’s mission is to “cover veterans and service members touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”
Takenaka connected with the Idaho group and eventually launched a group at Garland Church. There’s also a Greater Spokane Quilts of Valor organization.
They make large lap quilts and often include a presentation pillowcase. The quilts are presented to veterans and service members regardless of whether they’ve seen combat or not.
“We consider anyone who has served to be affected by war,” she said.
Patriotic fabric isn’t always used. In fact Takenaka said that some women who’ve been traumatized while serving often prefer a nonpatriotic or military motif.
These quilts are more than a “thank you for your service,” they are a tangible recognition of those who sacrificed for their country. Takenaka stressed these are not military awards, but gifts from the American people. Each one features a label that reads; “This is a Quilt of Valor. Quilting to honor and comfort those touched by war.” The label also includes the veteran’s name, the date and location of the award, and the names of each person who helped make it. Often they’re presented during a small ceremony.
Takenaka recalled one such presentation at her church.
“A Whitworth professor who is a Vietnam vet came up to me with tears streaming down his face. He said, ‘No one has ever thanked me for my service.’ ”
The first batch of 18 quilts for Molokai are almost ready to be shipped. The VFW grouped the veterans by age, so this shipment is for World War ll and Korean War veterans.
“The pastor (from Calvary Chapel) is going to award them for us,” Takenaka said.
The next priority for the Garland QOV group is quilts for Vietnam veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD.
Though their time and supplies are donated, the group was surprised to find out how much it costs to ship the quilts to Molokai.
“It will cost $200 to mail 18 quilts,” she said.
Donations to help defray the costs are welcome.
“The goal is for every vet on Molokai to receive a Quilt of Valor,” said Takenaka.
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