Harking back to the homefront of World War II, the Dwight Eisenhower Library and Museum is looking for quilters who want to make wounded soldiers more comfortable.
The library is launching its first "Quilts of Valor" challenge, seeking Kansas quilting enthusiasts who will have about a year to stitch something together for the troops.
The goal is to put the quilts on display at the presidential library for Veterans Day, 2010, and then distribute them to wounded service men and women.
The impulse is the same one that drove women to sew for the soldiers under Eisenhower's command in WWII, said Jan Hottman, the library staff member who is organizing the quilt project.
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Back then, quilting was more of a practical necessity than the hobby and art form it is today.
"The cotton and everything was used for military supplies," Hottman said. "They (civilians) were rationed seriously, so women would take old clothes and tear them apart to make blankets. With all the (war) injuries, a lot of women would make them for the hospitals."
The quilt drive is being run in conjunction with the Quilts of Valor Foundation, which Hottman discovered while reading a quilting magazine during the summer.
Catherine Roberts, a quilting enthusiast and retired nurse and midwife, started the foundation in 2003 when her son, Nathanael, was called up for duty in Iraq. He was wounded in action and has since left the military, although her daughter, Hannah, is deployed with the Navy.
Wanting to do something for wounded soldiers like her son, she recruited a few volunteers to piece quilts together. To distribute them, she contacted a chaplain at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., whose wife also happened to be a quilter.
Since then, the group has grown to include thousands of volunteers and distributed more than 26,000 quilts.
Roberts said she is thrilled to be working with the presidential library because — a little-known fact confirmed by the museum — Eisenhower was a quilter. He and his brothers helped their mother, Ida, make quilts while growing up in Abilene.
"My message is everyone can get involved, as President Eisenhower did when he was a small boy," Roberts said.
Hottman said quilts are a good way to show support for the wounded because of the amount of time and handwork that goes into them.
"There's just something about a quilt, knowing that somebody made that for you, that's just very comforting," she said.
In addition to soldiers injured in current conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan, the museum also hopes to present quilts to veterans wounded in earlier wars.
To participate, contact the museum at 785-263-6700, toll-free at 877-746-4453, or www.eisenhower.archives.gov.