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Local group makes quilts for active soldiers, veterans

Carol Christopherson, member of the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of Quilts of Honor, operates her long-arm quilting machine in her basement.

Carol Christopherson, member of the Southeast Wisconsin chapter of Quilts of Honor, operates her long-arm quilting machine in her basement.

May 13, 2014

Franklin — "Quilted Hugs of Gratitude" is more than just a nice phrase for the Wisconsin Southeast chapter of Quilts of Honor.

Members take the description literally.

"Sometimes when we give soldiers the quilts, they'll hang them up in their homes," said Karen Grochowski, Franklin Public Library assistant and coordinator for WISE Quilts of Honor. "It's nice, but we really want them to use them, to snuggle up with them.

"They may look like works of art, but they're durable. We want them to wear them."

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WISE is the local chapter of the national Quilts of Honor, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to providing healing, loving quilts to those who have served in harm's way protecting our freedoms," according to its website.

Quilts of Honor is just one of several initiatives from the Franklin library that has bestowed active and inactive military members with appreciative presents, including pillow cases, care packages and cookies. The library collects the names of military recipients from residents.

WISE Quilts of Honor meets about once a month, either at the library or at Carol Christopherson's home in Milwaukee.

Christopherson, a member of the group, has a long-arm quilting machine in her basement. The advanced machine enables her to sew intricate patterns on quilt fabric within a few short hours.

For those without a quilting machine, sewing a quality quilt could take 40 hours, Grochowski said.

Quilters were given "challenge kits," which contained four, half-yard pieces of fabric that were to be incorporated into their patriotic quilt designs. A standard quilt typically takes about 10 yards of fabric and could cost up to $150, she said.

"We ask that these charity quilts be constructed from quality materials to reflect the dignity, honor and respect due to those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf," Grochowski said.

Many of the members have ties to the military.

"My brother is a Vietnam (War) veteran," said Chris Goodhue, a recent addition to the QOH-WISE family. "I think it's always important to support those in the military for their service. It shows them that someone took the time and the effort to show respect and appreciation."

The quilts will be on display at the Franklin library, located at 9151 W. Loomis Road, in a "Defenders of the Flag" exhibit from Saturday, May 17 — Armed Forces Day — to June 11 during regular business hours.

The exhibit will include about 30 quilts, including pieces submitted by fellow groups — the Franklin Busy Quilting Bees and the Muskego Patriotic Quilters.

The quilts will be given to military members and veterans during a special program on Flag Day, June 14, at 3 p.m. at the library.

"When we present these quilts personally, even if you do it just once, it's a very emotional experience; they could be complete strangers to you, but when you give them a quilt, " said QOH-WISE member Jadine Hilt as she pushed back tears, "it just keeps you going to make more.

"I think it's very healing for them. And for us."

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