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Group sews Quilts of Valor to honor Central Florida veterans

Quilts represent healing, group founder says

Honoring veterans in a unique way, local seamstresses are using their talents to reward servicemen and women who risked their lives to protect our country.

It’s all part of the new Central Florida chapter of Quilts of Valor. It’s a national organization honoring veterans and active servicemen and women who have been touched by war. The chapter awarded its first quilt in January to a 95-year-old World War II Veteran.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it’s so special,” Quilts of Valor member Marge Nix said.

"The love we put into [the quilts], they felt it," said member Becky Machemer.

Melissa Mathews is the group leader and founded the Central Florida chapter of Quilts of Valor. She says the quilts represent healing and comfort for veterans and she hopes they become family heirlooms.

Each quilt is custom made and rewarded to the honorees during a ceremony at the Museum of Military History in Kissimmee.

“We try to stick to patriotic patterns most of the time. However, sometimes some veterans have problems with PTSD and one of those ways it can manifest itself is in an aversion to certain colors. Red is one of the predominant colors some can’t get past, so we make some quilts that are of other fabrics so we can recognize and award that veteran but still meet the needs of our veterans,” said Mathews. “More than anything else, we want the recipients to know this is coming from our hearts and our love. Our respect for their sacrifice.”

Right now the Central Florida chapter of Quilts of Valor has 22 members volunteering their time to sew, but they need funding to cover the costs of materials.

There are 18 million veterans in the U.S. and three million active-duty service members in the U.S., according to Matthews.

"We would love to award a quilt to each and every one of them, so we need quilters and we need help,” she said.

On Feb. 21, the chapter will honor three local veterans: a 97-year-old World War II veteran and two Vietnam War veterans. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. at the Museum of Military History located at 5210 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee and is open to the public.

The Central Florida Chapter of Quilts of Valor meets every third Wednesday of the month starting March 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Sewing Studio Fabric Superstore located at 9605 South US 17-19 in Maitland.

To nominate a veteran, visit the Quilts of Valor Foundation website at qovf.org. The national organization was founded in 2003 and more than 242,000 quilts have been awarded since.