It’s been 10 years since Gloucester resident Linda Mimnaugh was walking through Houston’s International Quilt Festival and a woman handed her a flyer promoting he Quilts of Valor Foundation.
The idea behind the foundation was to craft quilts that might honor veterans whose lives had been touched by war, in the hopes the soft quilts could help them heal.
It was an idea Mimnaugh, then living in Texas, embraced.
“I think we’re more aware now than ever what these young men and women have given us,” she said last week.
“It’s a different kind of war today,” added Mimnaugh, who is an avid quilter at 83 and whose brother, Mike Kollo, now 80, was wounded in Vietnam. “Today, (veterans) are coming back without limbs. It’s just horrible. And I guess I see this as a way of helping to give back.”
So, a full decade and more than 40 quilts after being introduced to Quilts of Valor in Houston, Mimnaugh has completed her two latest quilts — one of which she will be sending to her brother Mike at his home in Boulder, Colorado.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation, based in Winterset, Iowa, is a national nonprofit organization that coordinates the creation of quilts by volunteers across virtually every state in the country.
Mimnaugh, who moved to Gloucester six years ago to be close to her daughter, Kim Mimnaugh and grandson Will Greco, 19, said the quilts are created in stages. She and other quilters make a quilt top, a bonding, a label and a pillow case, then reach out to another project volunteer who has a long-arm quilting machine to pull the quilt together and send it back. From there, Mimnaugh sends the completed quilt out to veterans and family members who have applied to receive the honors through the national foundation.
Each quilt is crafted from patterns that are spotlighted by the foundation and, for the most part, appear in red, white and blue color schemes. Also, each quilt must be at least 55 by 65 inches, but no more than 72 by 90 inches, or 6 by 71/2 feet.
To date, Mimnaugh said, she has shipped quilts throughout the U.S. and to veterans at American military bases in Germany, Iraq and elsewhere, including to Dover, Delaware, Air Base through which bodies of U.S. service personnel are sent home for burial.
“I’ve sent a number of them there,” she said. “That’s got to be especially hard (for the families).”
She said her satisfaction comes from knowing her work and gifts are appreciated.
“I had one that went to Iraq,” she said, “and I got a letter back from the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse who said they had put the quilt over the top of (the wounded veteran) while they presented him with his Purple Heart. A lot of the letters I receive are very touching, and that is what makes it all worthwhile.”
Mimnaugh says she has no idea how much longer she’ll keep up her quilting or volunteering with the Quilts of Valor Foundation. She also says she has no intention of calling it quits.
“I have a ton of fabric,” she said with a laugh. “I have to keep going.”
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or firstname.lastname@example.org.