PRINCETON — In two short years, the Illinois Valley Quilts of Valor organization has comforted the lives of nearly 100 area veterans.
The organization presents hand-sewn quilts to veterans, which serve as a tangible reminder of appreciation and gratitude for their service.
In 2017, Terry Johnson of Princeton founded the Illinois Valley group, which is part of a nationwide Quilts of Valor Foundation.
The group has grown immensely in two years. Not only are there more active members involved in sewing the quilts, but also the number of area veterans being nominated to receive a quilt is on the rise.
In 2017, 17 quilts were awarded to veterans. Last year, that number grew to 65 quilts. Only four months into 2019, and the group has given away 17 quilts, and is coordinating schedules to present another eight.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Who would have thought I would have retired six years ago to do Quilts of Valor. It’s just a huge dream come true,” Johnson said.
The Illinois Valley Quilts of Valor organization has about 20 active volunteers who meet monthly to work on the quilts. The group also has a few dedicated sewers who don’t attend monthly sew meets, but who quilt for the organization on their own time.
Corry Guier, who has been dubbed the “fabric guru” within the sewing group, said she never got to serve in the military and this is just her way of being able to do what she couldn’t do.
Linda Murray, co-owner of The Quilt Box in Kewanee, has been a big supporter of the cause since the local group was formed two years ago.
“It’s just a wonderful cause. I lost my dad a couple years ago, and he was a veteran. It means a lot to me,” she said.
“You hear so much about the Vietnam veterans who didn’t have any recognition or thanks whatsoever. I don’t think they expect it. They say they’re not worthy of it, but they all are.”
According to Johnson, each quilt averages about 100 hours of time to create and costs roughly $300. While the organization has received immense community support, through both financial and fabric donations, Johnson began looking for a way the group could keep up with the quilt demand without having to take time away from sewing to fundraise.
She decided to team with the Bureau County Fair Board, which agreed to add new textiles categories specifically for Quilts of Valor entries in this year’s fair.
Kyle Burrows, fair board president, said they are excited about the new partnership.
“These honorable quilts will be a great addition to the fair. ... A special recognition to Terry Johnson for coordinating this new category,” he said.
People from all over the state will be able to enter a patriotic-themed quilt that fits the correct size measurements. More specific rules about the entry will be posted on the Bureau County Fair website by Wednesday, May 1.
There will be three entry options for the Quilts of Valor shown at the fair: The quilt can be shown and then presented to a specific veteran; the quilt can be shown and then donated to Illinois Valley Quilts of Valor to present to any nominated veteran; or the quilt can be taken home.
On the final day of the fair this year, there will also be a Quilts of Valor ceremony.
To nominate an area veteran for a Quilt of Valor, visit QOVF.org.