Longtime Murfreesboro resident and MTSU alumna Jill Shaver finally could connect faces and names to six quilts she lovingly made for strangers who served their nation as members of the military.
Shaver and friend Denni Green of Smyrna, Tennessee, combined to make seven quilts dedicated during a Quilts of Valor ceremony Thursday, Nov. 19, at the new MTSU Veterans and Military Family Center in Keathley University Center.
“It’s our way of giving back to our veterans,” said Shaver, whose husband and MTSU alumnus Keith Shaver served in Vietnam. “We can’t do enough for them. These (quilts) represent the love and gratitude of our nation.”
With the brand of “Quilting to Honor and Comfort” those who have served, the Quilts of Valor Foundation’s mission is “to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.”
Volunteers make 1,000 quilts per month. More than 128,000 quilts have been created since the project began in 2003.
Four quilts Shaver made, representing branches of the military, grace the walls of the 2,600-square-foot, $329,000 MTSU center, which formally opened earlier this month.
Two of Shaver’s quilts and one made by Green were presented to individuals, including:
- Sean Martin of Smyrna, a U.S. Marine veteran who is an MTSU junior sociology major. Martin was unable to attend the ceremony.
- Michelle Worley of Murfreesboro, a retired 20-year veteran with the U.S. Air Force who is working on her master’s degree in social work. She was unable to attend because of classes, so her husband, Mike Worley, accepted the quilt on her behalf.
- Keith M. Huber, a nearly 40-year U.S. Army veteran who retired as a lieutenant general. In January, he accepted the role of senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives at the university.
In presenting the quilts, Ginger Fondren, Quilts of Valor Midstate coordinator, asked Shaver to join her in observing the tradition of unfolding the quilts and wrapping them around the veterans before giving them a hug.
Worley said his wife, Michelle, served for 15 years as a victim advocate while in the military and, once retiring from service, vowed to become a social worker for the VA to help veterans.
“She’s dedicated two decades of her life to serving our nation and I imagine she’ll spend the rest of her life … helping veterans,” he said. “We’re going to hang this up in our home. It’s absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much.”
In this season of giving, MTSU turned the tables on Shaver and Fondren. Greeting them was a “Thank You Quilts of Valor” banner that hung across the right side of the center where the dedication took place. Green was unable to attend, so Shaver accepted the gifts on her behalf.
Center director Dr. Hilary Miller read proclamations recognizing the trio as “Red, White and ‘True Blue’ friends of Middle Tennessee Veterans.”
For their years of giving of time, money for materials and more, and “dedicated efforts toward developing a sense of community and American spirit through their volunteer service, and for helping make the Center a home for our nations heroes,” Miller wanted Shaver, Green and Fondren to be recognized with a special thank-you. They also were presented with MTSU blankets.
“Their quilts have contributed much to the warm atmosphere of our center,” Miller said of the project. “We have been so looking forward to getting to know and show what a great gift they have given to the 1,000-plus student-veterans and their families.”
Graduate student-veteran Teana Harle of Murfreesboro said the quilts “bring a warmth and inviting sense to the room and they are so colorful that they break up the walls and gives something for veterans to come in and identify with.”
Heather Conrad, VetSuccess on Campus counselor at MTSU who began making inquiries with Quilts of Valor a year ago, read biographies about Martin, Worley and Huber before presenting the quilts. Martin was unable to attend but will be given his quilt later.
“Honor, comfort and warmth: it brings those senses to the center,” Conrad said of the Quilts of Valor mission, “and it brings the same to the veterans and their family members who spend time here.”
Conrad said whenever new student-veterans arrive at the center, they will be shown the quilts.
The center’s normal operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except on state and federal holidays. The public is welcome to visit.
Learn more at http://mtsu.edu/military.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)