The Sewing Stars shine bright as an interest group within the South Bay Blue Star Moms (SBBSM), a Silicon Valley area support group for active members of the U.S. military and their families. The Sewing Stars sew year-round, handcrafting Quilts of Valor to award to military veterans of WWII through current conflicts.
“We believe as we sew, that love, caring and gratitude flow from our hearts through our hands and into the quilts we make,” said Cathy Crowder, one of the original Sewing Stars in about 2012.
The Sewing Stars partner with the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QOVF), a national organization which oversees the awarding of Quilts of Valor to veterans for their “service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation in combat.” The quilts are only awarded, never sold, to veterans whose lives have been touched by war.
The Sewing Stars—about 15—make, on average, 40 to 50 quilts a year, each uniquely designed and carefully crafted over untold hours. It costs about $300 to $350 to make each approximately 60-inch by 70-inch quilt. The labor of love is a gift.
“We fundraise to buy fabric and donate out of our pocket. All the tools we use are our own,” said Sewing Star Jerilyn Lightfoot, State Coordinator of California for the QOVF. Also, grants are received from organizations such as the Mission City Community Foundation.
Since the QOVF was founded in 2003, about 183,000 Quilts of Valor have been awarded throughout all 50 states. The total updates weekly on the website: www.QOVF.org.
In 2017, 1,470 quilts were awarded throughout California. Sometimes a quilt made in one location is awarded to a veteran in another part of the state or the country.
“Sometimes you get tired [of sewing], but then when you award the quilt, it’s priceless,” said Lightfoot.
The Sewing Stars meet monthly to work on the quilts together in a large room donated by Moss Adams LLP in Campbell, where Sewing Star Ida Henscheid works full time.
Henscheid even recruited her husband, Peter, to sew. They moved furniture out of their living room to make space for a longarm quilting machine so that Henscheid can do the final quilting, a task that takes six to seven hours per quilt.
“Everything we do is just small compared to what [the troops] do, to their sacrifices. We are showing our appreciation for the troops and everything they do for us,” said Henscheid, whose son is a veteran.
“It’s a good way to support military moms and vets at the same time,” continued Henscheid. “This group has gotten a lot of our moms through tough situations.”
Some Sewing Stars particularly like awarding quilts to WWII veterans because they’re the oldest and to Vietnam veterans because they never received the welcome home they should have, they explain. When presented, each Quilt of Valor is ceremoniously wrapped around the veteran, who receives hugs as well.
“Many of us feel the Vietnam era vets were never thanked for their service,” said Sewing Star and SBBSM President Donna Zolezzi. “We say, ‘Thank you for your service and welcome home’ to Vietnam vets.”
The next SBBSM Quilts of Valor award ceremony and reception is April 14, 10:30 a.m., at Elks Lodge #2347, 1680 Martin Ave., Santa Clara. Fifteen quilts—most red, white and blue—will be awarded. Each has a patriotic name, such as “Freedom Forever.”
The SBBSM (www.southbaybluestarmoms.org), affiliated with the national Blue Star Mothers, meet the third Tuesday of the month, 7 – 9 p.m., at American Legion Post 564, 2121 Walsh Ave., Santa Clara. For the most up-to-date information and the monthly newsletter, visit the South Bay Blue Star Moms on Facebook.