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Material Hugs: OUS faculty start quilting guild for veterans

Red, white and blue triangular fabric pieces sewn to surrounding square patches represent more than just hours of meticulous work.
For Dr. Martha Evans, they represent a veteran deserving of honor and respect.
Evans, assistant professor of early and middle childhood education at Ohio University Southern spread her 54-40 or Fight-patterned quilt-in-progress out on a campus conference room table to observe.
“This is the one I’m working on right now. I’ve got these pieces to still go on,” Evans said as she laid out other fabric pieces that would soon become part of the larger work.
Farther down the table, Dr. Miki Crawford, who retired in 2018 with emerita status and still teaches a few communication courses, stretched out her unfinished work, a patchwork of red and blue squares with white stars, adjoining parchment-colored squares that read “We the people…”
Dr. Kim Keffer, recently retired OHIO Southern professor, was at the end of the table. In the earlier stages of her project, she was cutting fabric pieces that would later be sewn together.
Although all three women have varying experience with quilting, they gathered for a common goal — Quilts of Valor.
Quilts of Valor is a national volunteer organization that makes quilts for veterans.
To date, more than 250,000 quilts have been awarded to veterans through the QOV program by more than 10,000 volunteer quilters.
Recently, Evans, Crawford and Keffer started a guild of QOV called Material Hugs.
“I got into this because my aunt is a World War II veteran,” Keffer said. “Someone in Grayson nominated her for Quilts of Valor.”
Keffer, wanting to thank QOV, offered to donate to the organization.
“They said, ‘We won’t turn down your money but what we really need for you to do is make quilts’” she said.
Keffer had been quilting for a few years, a skill she learned as a personal therapy during her mother’s illness.
So, in 2019 she decided to make a QOV for Crawford’s husband, a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“I made one for Miki’s husband and loved it,” she said. “I loved making it. I loved giving it to him. I loved the smile I got. So, I was hooked.”
In turn, Crawford was so touched by the gesture, she wanted to learn to quilt.
She bought a sewing machine in January and is now on her fourth quilt.
“When Kim did that, I was just so impressed that I said, ‘I’ve got to do this,’” Crawford said.
Evans, who grew up quilting in a family of Appalachian quilters, also joined.
“Our goal is a dozen by Veteran’s Day,” she said. “And we’ll have it. I feel like we should honor those who serve, and quilting is my gift. I’ll share my gift by making quilts for these soldiers.”
Due to the pandemic, Material Hugs’ members began working individually, but are now able to work together due to everyone receiving COVID-19 vaccines. And the small group continues to grow, with Cathy Gillum and Dr. Salome Nnoromele, associate dean of student and academic affairs at Southern, also joining.
Keffer said anyone interesting in joining Material Hugs need not be an expert quilter or have any sewing skills, as anyone can help cut fabric or assist in other ways.
Anyone interested in joining can email her at keffer@ohio.edu.
For more information on Quilts of Valor, visit https://www.qovf.org.