North Whidbey Middle School students quilt for wounded soldiers

Seventh-grade student Chante Powell learned to sew to make quilts for the American Hero Quilts project.  - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Seventh-grade student Chante Powell learned to sew to make quilts for the American Hero Quilts project.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

The hum of sewing machines and buzz of energetic chatter in North Whidbey Middle School’s family and consumer science classroom is going to a good cause as seventh-grade students create quilts for the American Hero Quilts project.

Mary Ann Duhrkopf’s two classes made three quilts each with help from Quilters on the Rock, a local nonprofit quilting group.

“The quilts go to the wounded military returning from Iraq,” said Lynn Scoby of Quilters on the Rock. Scoby coordinates local quilting groups for American Hero Quilts and she came to the school to help the students on their project.

“I call them quilts of comfort because they’re not just for the soldiers but for their families as well,” Scoby said, adding that if her children were in the war, she’d appreciate them being honored like this.

Students grouped around sewing machines, pinning squares of red, white and blue patterned fabrics and sewing seams. Other students ironed the panels of fabric and arranged them into quilt tops. The spirited bustling of students dedicated to their work was everywhere.

“I’ve been really impressed. The kids are so enthusiastic and they’ve really taken to it,” Scoby said.

“I think that our project is really fun and I’m happy to be doing it and helping wounded soldiers,” said student Lauryn Boelke.

Sharon Cleary said she wants to see the soldiers’ faces when they receive the quilts and Kennedy Wotring said she thinks it’s “sweet” to be helping the soldiers.

Most of the students didn’t know how to sew before this project.

“But it’s pretty easy to learn,” Chante Powell said as she sewed a seam quickly but evenly.

James Lamb didn’t have such an easy time and nearly sewed his shirt together a few times.

“Hard. That’s the only word to describe it. It’s really hard,” Lamb said about completing such a complex project in a short amount of time.

For Haydyn Samara and Erica Sugatan, sewing became their favorite part of the project. Olivia Hemmerich said she’s planning to keep sewing, especially clothing.

“It was fun. I learned a lot because I didn’t know how to sew,” Hemmerich said, adding that she’d never made a quilt before and didn’t know there were so many steps.

Tierra Quichocho, Hollie Dunn, Ivan Lim and other students agreed that the project was fun but the deeper meaning of their work stood out as assistant principal Ray Cone read aloud a thank you letter from the family of a soldier who had received an American Hero Quilt. As a wounded soldier returning from war, he’d been unable to reconnect with his family but the quilt he received meant hope to him. It accelerated the soldier’s and family’s healing process.

“The things you’re doing here are having an impact,” Cone told the students.

“I thought it was really good,” Hemmerich said about the project, adding that she didn’t know the soldiers returned so deeply injured and it’s meaningful to help them.

A field trip was planned for the students to visit Arlene Anderson, owner of the business Rumplequiltskin. Anderson will finish the tops of the quilts at no charge for the classes.

Groups that Scoby works with on Whidbey and Fidalgo islands have made 600 quilts for the American Hero Quilts program. The quilts are distributed to soldiers in Washington.

Last month, Duhrkopf’s classes learned how to knit and made scarves for the North Whidbey Help House. Duhrkopf said she plans for the students to keep doing community service projects and learning new skills.


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