In October, a photo of Cpl. Josh Hargis went viral. The severely wounded soldier was seen in his hospital bed, saluting after receiving a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Afghanistan. The soldier, an Army Ranger based at Fort Benning, had a colorful quilt draped over his bed.
That quilt was from Quilts of Valor, a group that makes the items for soldiers returning from combat. In eight years, they have given more than 94,000 quilts nationally, says local coordinator Alana Losonsky of Columbus.
The local Quilts of Valor group is part of the GALA Quilters Guild, about 65 quilters who live in Georgia and Alabama.
Recently, when Losonsky was asked to donate a large number of quilts, she "nervously said yes" to making 19 of them for soldiers returning from Afghanistan in April. So far, six have been finished.
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She decided to make GALA's monthly meeting into a workshop/work session to get fabric ready to be made into quilts.
Anyone who wants to volunteer can go to Trinity United Methodist Church in Phenix City between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Materials will be provided, but volunteers should bring portable sewing machines.
To volunteer for the quilting workshop, just show up, said GALA member Sunny Pedigo, who lives in Valley, Ala.
"A lot of people would love to be part of the group," Pedigo said. "But I think they're afraid they have to do a whole quilt. We don't expect anyone to do a whole quilt."
In fact, on Saturday, volunteers will just sew together strips of fabric that will then be cut into squares that will be sewn together for the quilt.
An expert fabric cutter will be cutting the 3½-inch-wide strips.
"I love working on these," Pedigo said. "It's a huge project and we're such a small group."
And that's why they've opened this up to the community.
If you can't sew and don't want to learn to make a quilt, you can always donate fabric and other materials. Fabric must be all-cotton and red, white, blue, gold or tan. If the fabric has a patriotic pattern, it must also fit that color scheme.
Quilting thread and finishing material can also be donated.
Losonsky is hoping that people will get interested and start making quilts. She's a late bloomer, only having picked up the hobby about eight years ago, she said.
Pedigo, on the other hand, worked with her grandmother as a child. She quit as she grew up but started quilting again about 20 years ago.
These quilts do not just go to recent combat soldiers but also veterans who served in combat in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Losonsky got involved when her father-in-law, Frank Losonsky, a member of the Flying Tigers, a World War II American Volunteer Group team that taught Chinese Air Force how to fly and fight in combat, received a quilt.
There was a Flying Tigers reunion about a year ago and the survivors of the group all received quilts.