4-H youth in Swift County, in partnership with other community members, have sewn 110 quilts to deliver to the Montevideo Veterans Home, which opens in nearby Chippewa County in early 2024.
“We would have called it a success if we’d made five,” says Becca Golden, a University of Minnesota Extension 4-H youth development educator.
“I learned sewing in FACS class, but these were my first quilts,” says Ava Noble, a 4-H member living in Maynard. “Vets made sure that we're safe in our own country, so I thought that I could do this little thing for them.”
With more than 300 4-H’ers in Swift County, it was only natural that 4-H youth became part of the very fabric of the project.
Tied to veterans’ needs
The Swift County Community Pride Project for Veterans started in January 2023. It brings 4-H clubs together with a patchwork of partners of all generations, from church groups, Lions, legions and VFWs, to some crafty families.
Bonnie Kluver is a retired FACs teacher in the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School District. She’s also the project’s quilter-in-chief, and she knows that “nice” isn’t good enough. She consulted with Dave Barrett, a Swift County Veterans Services officer. Kluver learned that walker and wheelchair bags make life easier, so she added those to the project.
One unique thing about the Montevideo home is that spouses can join veterans, so many quilts are large enough for two.
“If you are going to spend almost a year on something, you want it to get used,” says Kluver.
Sew much generosity
Once they were ready for action, Kluver and Golden visited 4-H clubs to ask members to join the project. “Bonnie is known for saying, ‘If you can tie your shoe, there’s a role for you,’” says Golden.
Community members who didn’t see themselves on the quilting brigade nourished those who did with contributions of sloppy joes, fruit and dessert bars.
Some donated money, raising $2,000 for materials. But because others donated so much fabric, funds remained after the last square was sewn. The 4-H Federation donated $1,400 to help fill the veterans home’s store with free toiletries and other sundries.
Seamless service learning
Young people crave creative, hands-on learning, according to Golden. “They like having something tangible to show for their efforts, and in this case, something to give to the local vets, who are near and dear to our hearts.”
Youth concocted more ways to make it even more meaningful for the vets, such as labels for the quilts and greeting cards to express their appreciation.
Besides a new skill that will last her a lifetime — not to mention the exercise in math that quilting provides — Ava says she learned patience. “I learned to give grace to anyone who quilts. It’s a lot more work than it looks like.”
Sewing: A hands-on tradition in 4-H
In the 2022-2023 4-H program year, nearly 2,000 Minnesota youth enrolled in projects related to clothing and quilting, and 135 adults volunteered to guide them. That number doesn’t include needle arts or the projects of Cloverbuds, the youngest 4-H’ers.
Another tradition? Giving away the handmade treasures to others as gifts or donations.
It's great to be able to say "I made it myself," but hearing "You made this for me!" is even greater.
– Sharing Your Sewing, University of Minnesota Extension 4-H project guide, 1974
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