Catherine Roberts’ Dream
Quilts of Valor Foundation began in 2003 with a dream, literally a dream. Founder Catherine Roberts’ son Nat was deployed in Iraq. According to Catherine:
The dream was as vivid as real life. I saw a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night, hunched over. The permeating feeling was one of utter despair. I could see his war demons clustered around, dragging him down into an emotional gutter. Then, as if viewing a movie, I saw him in the next scene wrapped in a quilt. His whole demeanor changed from one of despair to one of hope and well-being. The quilt had made this dramatic change. The message of my dream was: Quilts = Healing.
The model appeared simple: have a volunteer team who would donate their time and materials to make a quilt. One person would piece the top and the other would quilt it. I saw the name for this special quilt. It was a Quilt of Valor, a QOV.
Touched By War
“Today’s modern military is comprised of volunteers. Each of them stepped forward to ensure a way of life is protected for their fellow citizens. They give up their freedom, time at home with loved ones, make other sacrifices and ultimately have no guarantee of safety. For me, that is valorous and I am grateful.”
The Oath of Enlistment states, ”I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
All enemies, foreign and domestic. These Veterans vowed to lay down their lives for you and me, no questions asked. We cannot judge what being “touched by war” means to a Veteran. It will be different for each one, no matter where or when they served.
A nurse serving in Landstuhl, Walter Reed or Topeka, KS, a general serving in the Pentagon, an infantry soldier serving in a war zone, in a humanitarian effort, or down the street at the local armory. No judgment, but trust.
Trust that these Veterans have been touched by war. Trust that they will tell you if they do not feel they should receive a Quilt of Valor. Be inclusive, not exclusive, for who today has not been touched by war, veteran or civilian, abroad, or in our own country?
I believe I will always remember the Vietnam Veterans’ stories of how badly they were treated when they returned to the United States of America. I will always tear up when I think about their words, “this is the first time anyone has thanked me for my services,” fifty years after they served. I believe war demons live and remain with Veterans for all of their lives.
Today’s military is composed of volunteers and has always been about having their buddy’s back. From those “in the rear with the gear,” to the front-line service member, being touched by war can take many forms. Anyone who has taken the Oath of Enlistment has accepted the burden and risk and may be touched by war in ways that are not totally apparent. Whether in times of war or peace, we cannot know what they experienced and how it affected them. The point is not to discriminate, but to honor.
I believe it is not our job to judge whether someone deserves a QOV, but rather do they need one.
A Quilt of Valor is…
From the beginning, Catherine Roberts had definite ideas about standards of excellence for Quilts of Valor:
I knew a Quilt of Valor had to be a quality-made quilt, not a “charity quilt.” A Quilt of Valor had to be quilted, not tied, which meant hand or machine quilting. It would be “awarded,” not just passed out like magazines or videos, and would say unequivocally, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation.”
The QOVF Timeline
We are a movement of over 10,000 volunteer members across 600 groups in all 50 States. We are represented by almost 700 volunteer leaders whose objective is to bring healing to Service Members and Veterans. We believe in gratitude and that our quilts bring a tangible comfort to those we award.
We have made and awarded over 250,000 QOVs throughout the US and overseas. QOVs have traveled from the US to war-stricken areas, been carried by medics in mobile hospital units, awarded on aircraft carriers and on foreign soil. Most of our QOVs are awarded in communities across the United States.
Our volunteers have inspired Quilts of Valor – Canada Society which comprises members in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. We’ve ignited movements whose seeds are being planted now in New Zealand and South Korea.
This started with one woman…Catherine Roberts
Today, she resides in the Northwest and we occasionally speak about current initiatives. She is eager to hear about our progress and what has happened since those early beginnings. We can tell her that as of January 2020, we had almost 15,000 open QOV nominations in our system. We can discuss the movement of QOVs across the nation – from tops to quilters and back again – many hands contribute to each QOV.
“QOVF has reached 245,000 service members and veterans, showing our gratitude and valuing their contribution to our freedoms”
Let’s get ‘Wrapped Up In Christmas’ by Janice Lyn is a publication by Hallmark/Crown Media. It is the first QOV heartwarming love story about a Veteran awarded a QOV who sets out on a journey to the find the person who made it.
“QOVF has reached significant milestones in the past several months. As many of you know, we’ve awarded more than 212,000 quilts throughout our nation to date. Our membership coordinator reported membership has grown to more than 10,300.”
We have reached over 5,000 volunteer members and we are establishing infrastructure to capture our nomination information. We were working with an all-volunteer staff from Executive Director, Executive Staff, State and District Coordinators and Group Leaders. Our Board of Directors (volunteers) had begun to formalize our systems and the board positions necessary to guide us with legal, financial, marketing and trademark information.
Our first publication, featuring a QOV made in each state sold out two print runs and continues to sell well.
Our partnership with Janome America resulted in the production of a Janome 3160QOV sewing machine featuring the QOVF logo.
We partnered with American Gold Star Mothers and the National Grange
Ann Rehbein appointed as Executive Director of Quilts of Valor Foundation.
“What an amazing time this is for Quilts of Valor Foundation. All over this great nation, commemorating 200,000th, QOVs have been awarded in recent weeks.”
Susan Gordon appointed as Executive Director of Quilts of Valor Foundation.
As the Foundation grew, it was time to consider formalizing an organizational structure. In keeping with a spirit of Grass Roots Movements, groups continued to function. However, the emphasis was placed on:
- Bringing our finances in compliance with Federal laws
- Introducing membership to the foundation
- Creating policies & procedures
During this time, we focused on maintaining a sense of ownership in each community while assisting with the needs of every business – licenses, incorporations, permits, insurance and such. The Foundation realized there would have to be an umbrella (The Foundation) that allowed the local groups to continue their work.
We determined the best way to manage those overarching costs was to establish a group membership and a discounted individual group member opportunity. Those funds allowed The Foundation to carry the administrative costs for acquiring licenses, permits, renewing corporate filings and covering events with genera liability coverage.
This led to a realization that we must accept certain limitations on groups and The Foundation itself. Forming policies and procedures helped set the structure of what groups could do to conduct the local business of QOVF and what would no longer be viable.
It was a challenging time which allowed for copious input from all levels of the organization and created the beginnings of relationships between disparate groups through national training conferences.
“It’s that time of year when every organization under the 501(c)(3) sun is asking for donations. Quilts of Valor Foundation needs funds for administration expenses too, such as web site maintenance and redesign, liability insurance, state nonprofit status filings, postage for brochure mailings, and legal fees. However, there is one caveat. QOVF is not requesting monetary donations from you, our community’s generous quilters and longarmers.” ~ Catherine Roberts, Founder
June Moore appointed as Executive Director of Quilts of Valor Foundation.
“Without June, Quilts of Valor Foundation would not be here today,” comments Catherine. “June guided QOVF through a growth spurt that has amazed us all. During her tenure, we’ve transitioned from a small team to a true national non-profit. June’s get’er done personality has literally kept QOVF going.”
“I have been at the QOV helm for almost eight years. Many wonderful things have happened since November 2003. We are close to 50,000 awarded QOVs.
Quilts of Valor is a name that is known internationally. Nine fabric companies have created and produced gorgeous American Valor fabrics. Marianne Fons, who has become an integral part of the QOV family, conceived of an engaging model of garnering new quilters with the Under Our Wing program. We have more than 10 nationwide, dedicated, volunteer Regional Coordinators whose primary task is to nurture and guide people who want to make QOVs.
June Moore and Lori Kutch have been running the operational portion of the QOV Foundation while Joyce Lundrigan manages our little shop.”
“Last month, we announced the birth of our new and exciting program, Under Our Wings (UOW) which resides on our QOVF.org website. UOW invites and enables each and everyone of you to participate in national service. We see making a Quilt of Valor for someone who has stood in harm’s way and been touched by war as participating in national service.
In less than a month, we have had over 110 quilt shops register to be an official UOW Quilt Shop. These shops are a resource no matter where you are on the quilting scale. If you quilt and want a Rookie but can’t find one, they will help you find someone to take under your wing.
If you don’t sew and want to make a QOV, they can partner you up with your own Quilt Coach. If you aren’t the sewing type but still want to do something, they can put you to work.” ~ Catherine Roberts, Founder
The philosophy of inclusion widened when Catherine became aware of the work that goes on at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations (AFMAO), located at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
Catherine Roberts recalls: I read an essay by Marine Lt. Col. Michael Strobl called “Taking Chance Home.” In the essay, Strobl recounts how he escorted the body of Marine Private Chance Phillips to his home in Wyoming for burial. Strobl took the reader through AFMAO, describing who the staff was and what they did to prepare the remains of the fallen for burial. I realized that workers at Dover, though they were stateside, were as touched by war as anyone downrange or “in theater.”
We established a relationship with the AFMAO and set a date for an awards ceremony. The day of the ceremony I received a call from the chaplain saying we had a big problem—some of the staff at Dover were civilians. As they all worked as a team, a family, awarding Quilts of Valor only to military service members would not work. The decision was made to award quilts to all working at the Port Mortuary, and this policy has continued ever since.
The Light of Inclusion
Catherine Roberts remembers: I affectionately referred to these young men as “babies” to distinguish them from veterans of other conflicts. Among us civilians, there were no complaints, as we were in the throes of an ongoing war. However, there were faint rumblings from those who worked at Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs). They politely pointed out it wasn’t fair to award a QOV to one group…
The light of inclusiveness began to glimmer.
A group of us got together for a quilting retreat. One of our activities for the weekend was to award quilts at an event called “American Veterans Tribute and Traveling Wall Exhibit” in Bellingham. I could not find a group of OIF/OEF veterans for the QOVs we brought that day. A group of Vietnam veterans were there to perform a “Patriot Guard” ride past the Vietnam traveling memorial wall on their motorcycles. This event changed my whole outlook on who should receive a Quilt of Valor. As we were awarding quilts, the Vietnam vets said over and over again, “Ma’am, this is the first time in forty years anyone has ever thanked me for my service.” All of us were thunderstruck.
How the Foundation Grew
From Catherine Robert’s home in Seaford, DE, the Quilts of Valor movement spread across the nation and beyond through the power of word-of-mouth and the Internet.
According to Catherine: The team consisted of a quilt-topper, a person who pieces the top from various fabrics, and a quilter who uses a “longarm” quilting machine to create beautiful machine quilting. Our longarmers immediately played a crucial role in making our quilt tops go from hohum to “wow.” …Other key players on our team who helped our growing community get things done, in addition to those making quilts from coast to coast, were the “longarm coordinator” and “destination coordinator.” Our “points of contact” throughout the world identified recipients and often facilitated the actual awards ceremonies.
The first Quilt Of Valor was awarded November, 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) to a young soldier from Minnesota.
Catherine recalls: Chaplain John Kallerson opened the door for us at Walter Reed primarily because his wife Connie Kallerson happened to be a quilter. She impressed upon him how comforting quilts can be.
On that day ½ of the 300 QOVs were awarded to the physically wounded and ½ were awarded to those struggling with psychological/emotional trauma and distress.