They call themselves the Veteran’s Angels. Over the past three years, the group has dedicated all their free time to cutting, stitching, binding and ironing more than 175 Quilts of Valor for area veterans.
The Veteran’s Angels are a local chapter of Quilts of Valor, a national grassroots community effort providing quilts stitched with love, prayers, and healing thoughts to veterans. Guttenberg residents Joyce Kopecky and Rosalie Kickbush started the group in January of 2013. “Little did we know what we signed on for,” chuckles Kopecky.
“Anytime I’m home with a spare minute, I sew. When you’ve got 10 minutes, you cut and sew,” say the ladies. Each quilt takes several days to complete – if quilters didn’t have the usual distractions like cooking, sleeping, and chatting with one another. The Veteran’s Angels meet monthly at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital to quilt. Sometimes as many as 20 gather there, enjoying the camaraderie and walking tacos provided by the GMH Auxiliary.
Kopecky and Kickbush cut pieces and make kits in preparation for monthly gatherings. “Between her and I, we’ve got the kits made up so that when they come to the workshops they better bring their sewing machine or their scissors,” smiled Kickbush. “We have a very active and supportive group that helps. Not everyone sews – some iron, work on binding, or even sort scraps. There are also individuals who present us with completed quilts ready to present to a Veteran."
“We use it as a gathering, a chance for people who want to support our veterans to spend a half a day, or two hours. They do what they’re able to do, and we will take it,” said Kopecky. She and Kickbush forged their own friendship through Quilts of Valor. “I hardly knew her. We belong to different churches, and have separate interests,” Kickbush said of their relationship prior to starting the group. Now, Kopecky admits, “There isn’t a day we don’t talk.”
In addition to the hours of volunteer effort required, each quilt requires about $350 in supplies.
All service members are eligible to receive a Quilt of Valor. Quilts are presented by referral and are implemented according to the age of the veteran and what war he or she served in. “We don’t pick and choose who we give them to – it’s all in the referrals,” say the organizers. “We already have 20 names for Memorial Day, but if somebody sends us a referral in the next few months and it’s a WWII veteran, they would be added to the current group and the last referral would be held over for the next presentation.”
Quilts are presented annually on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well as at other times and places for health reasons. The Veteran’s Angels can present approximately 20-25 quilts at a time. They’ve been overwhelmed by the responses from vets and their families, and are always looking for referrals. Referral forms can be picked up at the Guttenberg Public Library as well as at The Guttenberg Press.
Kickbush and Kopecky say they are motivated to keep quilting by the veterans that come forward when their songs are played during the Veterans Day program. “The first time we presented was at Veterans Day. I looked at her and said, ‘You and I are not going to live long enough to provide quilts for all these veterans,’” said Kopecky. Three years and nearly 200 quilts later, the Veteran’s Angels are still trying to do just that.