GROTON -- "A group of us started the Soldiers' Angels 'Blankets of Hope' project several years ago," said Susan Slade, president of the Groton Woman's Club.
At last week's holiday tea held at the Union Congregational Church, members admired a quilt, stitched with red, white and blue squares, surrounding a U.S. flag. It was the 300th quilt made by the committee for the "Blankets of Hope" program.
Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-led nonprofit with the mission to provide aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States, veterans, the wounded and their families, according to its website.
Made by volunteers, including those made by the women in Groton, the blankets send hope, support and gratitude to America's wounded and veterans.
"The blankets show the soldier, separated from their friends and families, that someone cares about him or her at that very moment," said Slade, who explained that they are used on hospital beds and transport medivac flights, providing warmth and comfort for the wounded.
Jan Dillon, GWC member and quilter for many years, said she was very interested when first asked by Slade to organize a group to make quilts for the Soldiers' Angels and that she "couldn't refuse."
The Soldiers' Angels Committee was formed four years ago by devoted members Pat Bennett, Helen Chase, Millie Cunningham, Charlene Dapolito, Jan Dillon, Ellen Hargraves, Bonnie Martin, Jill McCaffrey, Lori McElroy, Terry McPartlan, Tracey Molaskey, Peg Russell, Roseann Saridakis, Jean Sheedy, Susan Slade, Ann Walsh, Mildred Wells and Dottie Zale.
Slade, who claims she can't sew a stitch, is proud of the committee's wonderful quilters who meet monthly at the Groton Senior Center.
Jan Dillon expressed that she is very, very proud to be a part of the project and has enjoyed working with members of the committee, who work on the quilts throughout the year, each adding their own element. The materials (fabric, batting and thread) used for the quilts, are funded by the committee members and from donations received.
"Depending on the intricacy of the pattern, each quilt takes between six to 10 hours to complete, with most of the actual quilting done by Mildred Wells." Wells has a grandson who served and was wounded in Afghanistan, according to Dillon.
"As a group, we feel that by sewing these quilts for the wounded soldiers, we are letting them know that we care and we thank them for the sacrifice they have made for our country," Dillon said, adding, "We will continue to make quilts for our wounded soldiers as long as there is a need."
The 300th quilt will be shipped, along with three others, to Landstuhl, Germany, Regional Medical Center, the major military hospital, and specifically to the intensive care unit, where they will comfort patients who have been transported from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Slade.
"Our president, Susan Slade, has taken on the task of writing a note which accompanies each quilt; she ties each with a yellow ribbon," Dillon said. Slade carefully packages the quilts and has done so for every one of the 300 quilts that have been sent.
"It's a joy for me to do this. We don't get much response back as they are really very wounded," said Slade, fondly recalling when two quilts were given to wounded Australian soldiers, they sent notes of gratitude to the women. Another time, an email from an American soldier expressed he "couldn't thank them enough; his parents couldn't be there but the women were with their quilt."
"These young people put their life on the line and should know that somebody back home supports and loves them ... it's like giving them a hug," said Slade, as she attached the 300th note, "Made with love and hope for your recovery by the Groton Women's Club, Groton, MA, from Soldiers' Angels."
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the project can do so, noting on the check "Blankets of Hope." Send directly to: Groton Woman's Club, P.O. Box 798, Groton, MA, 01450.