Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild members (left to right) Mary Lou Jones, Patsy Crist, Lou Jane Brandenburgh and Judy Van Winkle show off the quilts made from fabric bingo squares to be donated to Fisher House, a home away from home for military families.
Submitted Photo

Quilts & Comfortters

Guild donating quilts for program helping families of wounded soldiers

By PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writera

Oct. 12, 2008 - The comfort of a quilt goes far beyond its resource for warmth, especially when each fabric block is pieced together with love and prayer as the ones soon to be donated by the Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild to Fisher House of Dallas, "a home away from home for military families in their time of need."

"We are very proud to be a part of what they are doing for wounded soldiers at Fisher House," said Judy Van Winkle, LSHQG president. "I'm so proud of the guild and pleased with their response when anything comes up like this."

Oct. 23 marks the grand opening of the 41st Fisher House, this one located on the grounds of the Dallas VA Hospital.

The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that has "comfort homes" located throughout the nation and in Germany at numerous military installations and 10 VA medical centers, with the purpose of providing families the comforts of home during the hospitalization of their loved ones due to an unexpected illness, disease or injury.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, Fisher House Foundation builds on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers.

Annually, the Fisher House program serves more than 10,000 families, and have made available nearly 2.5 million days of lodging to family members since the program originated in 1990. By law, there is no charge for any family to stay at a Fisher House operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Fisher House Foundation uses donations to reimburse the individual Fisher Houses operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Colleen Hines, LSHQG reporter, likened Fisher House to a Ronald McDonald House, but for military families of patients receiving medical care.

"Fisher House allows families of wounded service men and women to be near their loved ones without the financial burden of staying in a motel," Hines stated. "Once a family is checked in, there is no cost whatsoever for that family to stay. Not only does that make the family's burden easier to bear, it alleviates a significant worry to the soldier."

LSHQG members plan to be on hand for the grand opening of the program's newest facility .along with other quilting groups belonging to the Texas Association of Quilt Guilds donating quilts for the beds in each of the facility's suites.

"These are very usable quilts, they're not the kind you want to put on the walls and look at. These are the kind you want to wrap up in," Van Winkle explained.

Typically, the houses are 5,000 to 16,000 square foot homes designed to provide eight to 21 suites, all furnished and decorated in the tone and style of the local region. The houses can accommodate 16 to 42 family members and feature a common kitchen, laundry facilities, spacious dining room and an inviting living room with library and toys for children.

According to Van Winkle, the quilts they are donating to Fisher House started out as bingo blocks for the group's regular monthly program meeting. Van Winkle said they are always trying to come up with different programs and when she saw the idea in a magazine, she presented it to the group with instructions for various colors and fabrics.

"We had a so much fun," said Van Winkle, admitting the use of candy as bingo markers added to the fun of the evening.

"I think maybe we ate more candy than we used," she said.

Members were allowed to make as many blocks as they wanted depending on how many they were capable of keeping up with during the game.

As a result, the group had enough blocks to piece together two full-sized quilts and one baby quilt.

"The blocks weren't just real pretty because you had all these different kinds of fabric and patterns," said Van Winkle, who admitted being a little worried at the time. "But when they were pieced together, it was amazing how good they looked.

"We were very excited and pleased with what we were going to have to give to the Fisher House."

Van Winkle said that the large quilts are to be left for use at the Fisher House, but the children's quilts are allowed to be taken home.

The Lone Star Heritage Quilt Guild gives to several other worthy causes in addition to Fisher House. They donate quilts to the Northeast Texas Children's Advocacy Center in Winnsboro, Brooke Army Medical Center and others.

"Quilters are just a giving group of people," Van Winkle said. "We just feel like we need to give back to the community and to those in need."

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