Quilter Find Creative Outlet, Gives Back to Community
23 Oct 2008
Fort Richardson PAO
Nothing feels better on a cold, winter day than snuggling up in a quilt.
However, for a child who has a deployed parent, a quilt can take on an entirely different meaning — especially if it is covered with pictures of his absent parent.
That’s the idea behind Operation Kid Comfort, the national program which has been around since 2004 providing free quilts for children 6 and younger and pillows for 7 and older.
The Armed Services YMCA of Alaska has been participating in the program since 2006 and has given away more than 350 quilts and more than 60 pillows to local children whose parents are deployed, said Valerie Jamison, the ASYMCA of Alaska program coordinator.
“These quilts are great for kids,” Jamison said. “They definitely help get them through hard times.”
Without large number of volunteers, the quilts would not be possible, she said.
“They not only donate their time, but their talents and materials, and without their help, we wouldn’t be able to provide these quilts to children who need them.”
That’s why Geri Wacker, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Richardson Human Resources director, decided to get involved.
To date, Wacker has put together 20 quilts for the local Operation Kid Comfort program. She started volunteering to sew quilts for the program last year after the ASYMCA of Alaska approached her quilting group, Chugach Mountain Quilters Guild, for help.
“They get a lot of orders for quilts and needed help putting the quilts together,” Wacker said. “Our guild isn’t the only one that participates; they get so many orders they have several hundred volunteers and other guilds that help out.”
Volunteers at the ASYMCA of Alaska scan the photos onto fabric, but it is the quilting volunteers who sew the pieces together. Wacker’s guild, which has more than 65 members, has been helping since they were asked to participate last year.
Wacker started quilting in 1999, after she retired as a sergeant major stationed at Fort Richardson.
Both of her children were grown and starting lives and families of their own, so she found she had a little bit more time to enjoy a hobby, she said.
“I have always loved sewing, but I don’t like sewing clothes,” Wacker said, who began sewing when she was in middle school.
As an adult, quilting became her hobby of choice, because she said it allowed her to pursue another one of her interests, creating art.
Her quilting creations have won awards at the annual Alaska State Fair in Palmer and the annual Eagle River Bear Paw Festival. She usually enters a few pieces every year.
Besides working on Kid Comfort quilts, Wacker said she usually has 10 to 15 personal quilting projects going at once in various stages of completion. They range in size from small lap quilts and wall hangings to those that fit a queen-size bed.
Wacker said although she’s had requests, she normally doesn’t do custom work for other people, and she usually doesn’t sell her pieces once she’s completed them.
“For me, if I got into a business of selling my quilts, it would take all the fun out of it,” Wacker explained. “This is the way I relax, create and have fun.”
Wacker said quilting is relatively easy to do, but can become an addiction, and she’s always trying new patterns and thinking up new ways to put colored blocks and pieces together.
It can be an inexpensive or expensive hobby, depending on the types of projects one undertakes, she said.
“To do it, however, all you have to do is sew in a straight line and be able to do some math,” she said.
Those interested in getting an Operation Kid Comfort quilt should call ASYMCA of Alaska on Elmendorf Air Force Base at 552-9622, on Fort Richardson at 384-9622 or on Fort Wainwright at 353-5962.