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Quilters guild warms the hearts of vets

quilters, veterans, near me, owatonna, steele county, mn
Members of the Heritage Quilters of Southern Minnesota Guild gathered to donate quilts to Ecumen Hospice, to be given to veterans in hospice care. Left side, top to bottom, are Debi Grunklee, Madelyn Neher, Mona Rose, Laura Wertwijn, Linda Jewison, Marianne Mauer and Jacque Meillier. Next row, top to bottom, are Cathy Torrey, Cindy Wilbanks, Cathy Martin and Gretchen Zinsli. Next row, top to bottom: Anne Mattson, Bonnie Cole and Louise Erickson. Kneeling in front of Erickson is Chaplain Daniel Runke, of Ecumen Hospice. On the right, from top to bottom, are Cathy Nelson, Kathy Sellner, Denise Miller, Ardis Woods and Evelyn Haines. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Kay Fate, Staff Writer
“I think I’ve given out every one of the quilts, and I can’t begin to tell you how thankful these veterans are.”
-Daniel Runke, Hospice Chaplain

Bonnie Cole unfolded a pile of quilts, talking about the pattern and the fabric, as well as the new method of using a fleece blanket for backing.

They buy the blankets after the winter season for half price, “and they’re so soft and comfy on the back; a lot of people that we’ve given them to have said how much they enjoy it,” she said.

What she was actually doing, she learned later, was describing memories.

Cole is the chairwoman of the Heritage Quilters of Southern Minnesota Guild, which meets monthly in Owatonna.

The group met again last week to present eight quilts to Ecumen Hospice. That brings the total number given to 30–all of them going to veterans.

“It’s a huge blessing,” said Daniel Runke, chaplain of the southern Minnesota branch of the hospice. “More than that, it’s a memory that’s passed on to the children and to the grandchildren.”

Runke didn’t serve in the military but has lived overseas.

“I talked to people, and everybody appreciates the American military,” he said, “and I recognized that our freedom doesn’t come cheap. Veterans are often forgotten, and in their service, they have a lot of health issues.”

Bringing together talented, ambitious quilters with veterans who are terminally ill was a good match, Runke said.

“I think I’ve given out every one of the quilts, and I can’t begin to tell you how thankful these veterans are,” he said. “I remember the first quilt I gave out went to a Vietnam veteran. They were the first veterans that were kind of forgotten; they weren’t welcome, but I saw some healing that took place” with the quilt.

“He hung it on the wall. We give them the quilts to use, but a lot of these veterans hang them up.”

The women–and the quilters are all female–typically look for fabric with a patriotic theme, or what they called “masculine” colors. One of the quilts previously donated had a farm theme, which Runke said really pleased the vet who received it.

The program is part of Ecumen’s larger commitment to veterans and their families, called We Honor Veterans.

The quilts are “just a way of saying thank you,” Runke said. “This is the last battle they’re going to fight…but we want them to know they’re not forgotten. This is to encourage them as they fight that last battle.”

“What we’ve been doing down here in Owatonna has been so popular, and we’ve gotten such good feedback from veterans’ families,” he said, that other branches in the state are hoping to start the same program.

“The impact that you guys have made, not only on our veterans and our patients, but all over, is incredible,” said Laurie Jensen, home care and hospice care consultant for Ecumen Hospice.

The organization will make a monetary donation to the quilters club to buy supplies, she said.

“We’re a non-profit, so it’s huge for us, and huge for the patients,” Jensen said. “The joy that it brings is amazing.”

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