Stitching support for those in service

Sheila Galindo, from San Juan Bautista, cuts sashing for a quilt that will be given to a local veteran as part of the Quilts of Valor at Family Threads Quilt Shoppe in San Juan Bautista. Galindo is a member of Pinnacle Quilt Guild of San Benito County.

More than a dozen bits of fabric fit together to form a tiny, blue house with a red chimney and yellow windows surrounded by a border of stars and stripes.
In the hands of volunteers, such as Hollister resident Mandy Schneider, this square will become part of a quilt that recognizes a hometown veteran or active serviceman for their sacrifices.
“Our husbands don’t quite get why we get perfectly good fabric and cut it up and put it all back together again,” said Bonnie O’Connor.
O’Connor and Schneider are part of the Pinnacle Quilters of San Benito County, a nonprofit quilters enthusiast group, which partnered with the nationwide Quilts of Valor Foundation this year to make patchwork coverlets for local servicemen.
Each month, members are encouraged to make two squares of fabric—called “blocks”—with a specific design: one for servicemen and a second for quilts destined for the Emmaus House or the Chamberlains Children’s Center, depending on the month.
“Blocks become rows. Rows go together and become quilts,” O’Connor explained as she surveyed the back room of Family Threads Quilt Shoppe in San Juan Bautista last week, while volunteers organized squares of fabric on tables.
The guild’s decision to partner with the Quilts of Valor Foundation started after Schneider, a soft-spoken woman with whimsical tattoos on her arms and a ready smile, saw an ad about the project on Facebook. Schneider’s husband works as a firefighter and she is—in her words—passionate about all things “American hero.” So she suggested the groups join forces.
Six months later, members have completed an impressive dozen quilts and at least 10 more are in progress.
The women gathered at the quilt shop last week had more than 100 years of experience between them—with O’Connor quilting for 21 years, Schneider sewing for 10 years, Patty Cramer sewing for 60 years and Shelia Galindo sewing for 65 years.
“It’s my therapy,” said Cramer, 65, the guild vice president and program director. “It’s cheaper than a therapist.”
Most of the members learned to sew from family members. Founding member and former group president, San Juan Bautista resident Galindo, 70, spent her childhood in a small Alaskan town where if clothes weren’t purchased from Montgomery Ward or Sears, her mother made them. Now, Galindo is using her own sewing skills to help others.
So far, the group has presented quilts to Hollister residents Ray Friend, a veteran and city councilman, and Nick Olguin, an active serviceman. They are still looking for more San Benito County residents to honor, Schneider said.
“They do us no good being here,” she said, as she gestured to half-assembled quilts. “So we want to have a waiting list.”
To donate money or red white and blue fabric for Quilts of Valor projects, send materials to the Pinnacle Quilters of San Benito County at P.O. Box 1133 in San Juan Bautista, CA 95045. To request a quilt for an active serviceman or veteran, go to the Quilts of Valor Foundation’s website: qovf.org.

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