Four years ago, Millie Gentile learned from a good friend about Hospice of the Chesapeake’s Honor Salute program wherein dying veterans were thanked for their service with a brief but formal acknowledgement from military volunteers. Part of that moving moment included the gift of handmade patriotic lap blankets. The skilled quilter donated a red, white and blue quilt she stitched and was so moved by the idea, she told her friends.
Luckily for the Pasadena nonprofit, those friends happened to be the Downs Park Quilters. They all agreed with co-president Gentile that creating and donating quilts for this project fit in well with the club’s mission of turning their love of quilting into love for the community.
When the quilters realized they would be approaching a milestone of more than 100 quilts donated to veteran patients, co-presidents Gentile and Shirley Wise invited Nicole Malatesta, Hospice of the Chesapeake’s volunteer services coordinator for its We Honor Veterans program, to its September 28 meeting to accept what turned out to be the motherlode of patriotic quilts.
Before introducing Malatesta to the membership gathered in the Chesapeake room of the park’s visitor’s center, Gentile motioned to several tables piled high with handmade quilts, ready to be donated to patients in the weeks ahead. It was clear that this represented nearly the 14 quilts needed to make the goal of 100 quilts donated in four years. Visibly proud of the overwhelming response, she said, “Just look at all those beautiful quilts. We can be proud to say, ‘I am a Downs Park Quilter!”
Malatesta told the membership how important the donations are to the veterans who receive them, and she shared stories of how moved patients and families are by not only the generosity but also by the craftsmanship of the quilts. “One veteran quickly handed over his old lap blanket to his family and said, ‘Get rid of this ratty old thing – this is the blanket I will be using from now on!’” Malatesta said. She also told the quilters that at least one patient requested to be buried with the quilt.
Quilters meet Friday mornings in the park to share their love of the hobby. Besides stitching blankets for veterans, the group also sews quilts for premature babies at local hospitals and pillows for breast cancer survivors. Over the years, the quilters have raised more than $25,000 for the park they call home by raffling elaborate quilts which take the group six to nine months to piece together. To join the group or to learn more, call Wise at 410-255-0618.
To donate quilts to or learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, contact Hospice of the Chesapeake at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Malatesta at 443-837-1513.