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Quilt donations aid families

INDEPENDENCE -- The war in Iraq has ended, the Afghanistan war is slated to end in 2013, and many soldiers are back in the United States.

Ladies of Liberty Mercantile owner Diane Bishop works on a quilt Friday that will be sent to the family of a fallen soldier through the Home of the Brave Quilt Project.

Photo by Pete Strong

Ladies of Liberty Mercantile owner Diane Bishop works on a quilt Friday that will be sent to the family of a fallen soldier through the Home of the Brave Quilt Project.

February 27, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- The war in Iraq has ended, the Afghanistan war is slated to end in 2013, and many soldiers are back in the United States.

Although 33,000 troops have returned home, what about the families of those who will never return?

To show their gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those fallen heroes, volunteer quilters at Ladies of Liberty Mercantile in Independence, owned and operated by Diane Bishop, produce commemorative quilts for families left in the wake of grief.

"It's a great way to put the soldiers back in the spotlight because I think that people have forgotten their dedication and service to the country," said Tina Paul of Dallas, a quilting volunteer whose son was recently deployed to Afghanistan.

"It's a way of letting the families know that their child is not forgotten."

This local effort is happening under the mantle of the Home of the Brave Quilt Project, a national effort.

"Since 2006, there have been more than 200 quilts made for (Oregon) families of soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Kay Vicars Hansen, Home of the Brave's Oregon coordinator.

The quilters also volunteer their talents for soldiers from other states. In the past five years, Oregon quilters have provided quilts for Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Florida.

"States like Florida and Texas have four times the number of casualties that Oregon has had, so with the generous help from our quilters, we are able to help them by sending extra quilts when we get ahead," Hansen said.

Bishop took the project on because her son had been to Iraq twice.

"It was something I wanted to do because my son came back, so this was important to me," she said. "As a mother, I would hope somebody would do that for me if worse came to worse."

Using the "album block" quilt pattern, the Oregon chapter of volunteer quilters replicates quilts produced during the Civil War by the women of the United States Sanitary Commission, which later became known as the American Red Cross.

"My shop is decorated like the Civil War era and I specialize in reproductions of fabrics that are Civil War era," Bishop said. "This was another reason why this project was so important to me because it fit right into what we were doing here at the shop.

"We all love to quilt," she added. "But, there comes a point when you ask yourself `how many quilts can you have?' So, we wanted to make charity quilts and continue the hobby that we love, but to do it for someone else."

Volunteer quilters meet bimonthly to sew the blocks for the quilts and sign them with a commemorative sentiment. During the process, one block is sent to Gov. John Kitzhaber for his signature. The quilt top is pieced together by Bishop and given to Heidi Rodli of Dallas for its backing.

Ladies of Liberty employee Marie Beers has no direct connection to soldiers currently overseas, but quilts for someone from her past.

"There was no program like this when my brother died in 1968, four months before his 21st birthday," Beers said. "As the only son, he volunteered to go and it was very sad at the time.

"I feel that those soldiers from Vietnam really got the short end of the stick -- when they got home, nobody cared," she continued. "Now, when soldiers come home, it's so much better that we can welcome them."

For more information on the Home of the Brave Quilt Project: www.oregonhomeofthebrave.org.

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