ATHOL - Jerene Kindley said she was inspired to make quilts for veterans when her veteran husband was given one two years ago at a Disabled American Veterans conference.
The group behind the gift, Quilts of Valor, was founded in 2003 and has provided more than 100,000 quilts to veterans throughout the nation. According to a Quilts of Valor pamphlet, those that have been wounded or touched by war are "given this token of appreciation that unequivocally says, 'Thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor.'"
"It was an eye-watering experience," said Kindley's husband, Kirk, of receiving the quilt. "It's quite an honor." Kirk is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
"It was just so touching," Kindley added. "After we got home with that quilt we were so touched by him receiving that that I thought, 'Well, why not do Quilts of Valor?'"
Shortly after Kindley began making the quilts, she was asked by the state coordinator in Lewiston if she would be the coordinator for North Idaho. Kindley agreed, and in a little more than a year the North Idaho chapter of Quilts of Valor has given 30 handmade quilts to local veterans.
"Just recently I presented Quilts of Valor to a group of World War II veterans in their 90s," Kindley said. "The oldest one was 98 and he was as sharp as a tack."
Requests for the quilts, according to Kindley, far exceed the pace at which the small group of volunteers can produce them.
One of those volunteers, Linda Komberec, said she has been quilting for more than 15 years and was inspired to join North Idaho Quilts of Valor by her daughter and grandson.
"He's been to Iraq and Afghanistan three or four times," Komberec said. "I worry about these young kids so much. These are kids that have given their lives and limbs for us. At least we can give them something in return."
Giving the quilts, which often take months to create, to veterans is one of the best feelings in the world, Kindley said.
"It's a joy and a blessing to see the looks on their faces," Kindley said. "Some of them almost cry; it's just really, really touching. I think that's why I like doing it so much. It's really a blessing for me to be able to recognize them as heroes that have sacrificed so much to protect our freedom."
At the moment, the group does not have an official time where it meets and quilts. Kindley said some of the participants meet weekly at a home in Athol and work together before getting lunch as a group.
"It's a fun group to be with. We are always trying new things and new patterns," said Judy Cooper, a North Idaho Quilts of Valor member.
The quilts traditionally use red, white and blue as a color scheme for the quilts, but Kindley said there are not any strict requirements other than the quilt dimensions (55 inches by 72 inches).
For more information on North Idaho Quilts of Valor, or to volunteer to help make quilts, contact Kindley at (208)777-0474.