Quilters, volunteers come together to help reward those who sacrifice
Dave Wargo/special to the times news Carbon County Quilters Guild Treasurer Ellen Meli displays a custom quilt top of her own design that will eventually be backed and sewed to be sent to wounded troops through Andrews Air Force Base as part of the Quilts of Valor program.
About 25 men and women came together for a day of quilting, food and fellowship as the Carbon County Quilters Guild sponsored a special event called "Quilts of Valor" at the Summit Hill Heritage Center last Saturday.
The all-day event resulted in seven lap quilts and tops being assembled and sewn by the volunteers. They will be sent to Andrews Air Force base for distribution to injured soldiers and veterans returning from combat.
"I'm very happy with the turnout today," said guild co-chairperson Debra Ranck who helped fellow co-chairperson Elnora Clay organize the one day event. "We have everyone split into different stations where they are working on seven different tops."
Ranck said the process includes cutting, assembling, pressing and sewing the fabric into quilt tops that will then either be assembled by tying the tops to the batting and bottoms or sending the tops to a long arm quilter to sew. A long arm quilter is a machine that is large enough to sew the quilts efficiently and faster than can be done by hand.
Volunteers for the project worked on the quilts throughout the day. According to Clay, some volunteers were not able to make it on Saturday so the guild is already planning to hold another Quilts of Valor day next year.
"We talked about it and decided we would hold another day event in the spring," said Clay.
While most of the quilts were destined to be sewed, some of them were being finished by tying, a method in which strips of material are sewn through the top, batting and bottom every three inches and then knotted to hold the three layers together.
Barbara Snowberger, past president who was working on a quilt kit she purchased at a show and decided to assemble for the initiative, said the most of the women brought their own kits or material.
"The fabric was either brought by the volunteers or donated to us," she said.
Snowberger said she is participating because of her love of sewing and the ability to do something for the members of the armed forces who sacrifice so much for their nation. Her particular quilt was a red, white, blue patriotic pattern. She said the guild has been working on lap quilts for years.
Clay said the quilts were part of an ongoing series of projects to support the troops.
"We got the idea for today from a television show called 'Quilts of Valor' on PBS," she explained. The guild has sent over a dozen quilts to injured troops over the past seven years. Clay said they also have assembled helmet liners and neck coolers as well over the years.
Volunteers for the day included members of the guild, Summit Hill residents, the Summit Hill Red Hatters club and other volunteers. Food was served by the Heritage Center Board of Directors men and included barbeque, cakes, donuts and other treats.
"We also had hoagies and pizzas donated by Slice Pizzeria," said Clay. The food was available to volunteers throughout the day.
Ranck and Clay said they were grateful to so many people and organizations for their support.
"Slice Pizzeria saw the story in the paper and called us to donate food for the event," said Clay.
She also expressed thanks to everyone who donated material or cash to help defray expenses. The Heritage Center also donated the space as well as proceeds raised from the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence held on July 4th in the center.
Summit Hill resident Pat Iezzoni, who was working with Carbon guild member Judith Shutack, said she was there because of the service they were providing to wounded troops.
"I also enjoy the camaraderie among the women as we work," she said.
Shutack said she was there in gratitude.
"This (work we are doing) is trivial compared to the sacrifices they made and make along with the sacrifices of their families," she said.
Guild Treasurer Ellen Meli said she was working on quilts in honor of her son-in-law, Major Daniel Gunter, Jr., who is presently serving in the Army and her husband, retired 23 year veteran Staff Sergeant Robert Meli. She displayed an original pattern she was creating for the project.
Andrea Mantz a member of the board and a student from one of the guild's classes said she was there to learn and contribute. She was working on her first quilt for this project.
"I thought this was a very worthy cause and I'm learning to quilt and getting a lot of tips and tricks from the ladies," she said.
The Carbon County Quilters Guild, celebrating its fifteenth year, promotes and teaches the art of quilting to interested men and women in the Carbon county area.
The group currently meets in the Lehighton Borough Annex the second Friday of the month and anyone interested in learning about quilting is welcome to attend meetings. They also sponsor classes and workshops and are constantly looking for experienced quilters as well who want to help.
"The purpose is to share this craft as well as encourage and help new people learn how to do this," said co-founder Clay.
For information about joining the guild or attending meetings, call Elnora Clay at (570) 645-3381 or Deb Ranck at (570) 645-9133.