AP NEWS

Honor stitches: Louisiana quilting club ‘hugs’ veterans

November 11, 2016
Colette Geddes, a member of the Gilded Ladies, works on quilts that they give to veterans on Veterans Day, in Sulphur, La., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Colette Geddes, a member of the Gilded Ladies, works on quilts that they give to veterans on Veterans Day, in Sulphur, La., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

SULPHUR, La. (AP) — A quilt is like a hug, says one of the Gilded Ladies, a group of Louisiana women who get together once a week for a special purpose: Each Veterans Day they give away their hand-stitched “hugs” to military veterans.

Their friend, Alice Perry, started the effort three years ago in Sulphur, a town of 20,000 promoted as “the Pride of Southwest Louisiana.”

“We started making quilts for veterans, and we’d give them to them every year on Veterans Day. And she has since passed away. We decided to continue on in her honor,” said C.J. Long.

Six or seven ladies gather around a long white table with scissors and sewing machines, sharing stories as they cut the fabric — usually with red, white and blue patterns — and piece them together again.

This year, the group plans to give away six quilts to local veterans at a ceremony planned at the town’s Henning Cultural Center. In past years, most of these quilts have gone to World War II or Vietnam veterans, but this year some are going to veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We find a veteran that lives in our neighborhoods that we know was deployed and served the country,” Long said.

One of them is Jack Gaspar, who joined the U.S. Army in 1963 and was eventually deployed to Vietnam. He said he was totally surprised to receive the blanket, but it has since become a comfort.

“I use the blanket religiously. I have it right by me on the couch. I’ll stretch back and cover up with it,” he said. “This has helped a lot.”

The ladies can see how emotional veterans get, and how much the gift means to them.

“A quilt is like a hug. That’s all there is to it. Somebody has labored over it,” quilter Debra Fleming said. “We’ve taken the fabric cut it up and re-pieced it. Someone has touched every piece of that.”

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Additional reporting by Rebecca Santana in New Orleans.