October 14, 2011

Quilts of Valor - Day One (Perham, Minnesota)

Over the next few days I'm traveling by bus with a group of 30 quilters, all of whom participate in a network called Quilts of Valor. They deliver (in this case by hand) hand-made, heirloom quality quilts to wounded soldiers returning from combat as a symbol of their gratitude for the soldier's service.

The idea is: soldiers comes home from active duty, and despite all the hoopla associated with a war or conflict, very little is done for them when they're spit back out of the machinery of the modern military and back into civilian life. There's certainly no big parade, and sometimes not even a thank you. These quilters feel that soldiers shouldn't go their whole lives wondering if anyone else cared one way or the other.

With that in mind, I'll be traveling with a group of QoV quilters to film and document their journey on behalf of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting (a very popular program out of Iowa Public Television, and big sister to the internet sensation known as Quilty). We'll be escorted by an honor guard of motorcyclists, and headed for military hospitals at Fort Hood and Fort Sam in Texas to deliver 1,000 quilts.
Earlier today I flew into Fargo, and am staying the night in Perham, Minnesota before heading out tomorrow morning. I'm in the home of the Caugheys, who are helping organize the trip, and are longtime Perham residents. The town's lifeblood these days is fed in large part by tourists attracted to the ridiculous number of lakes (pictured above), and a company called KLN Family Brands, who transitioned a few generations ago from farmers to makers of potato chips, licorice, and dog food (fortunately not all in the same factory).

KLN, as I've come to find out, is a surprisingly progressive, and family owned, company. For instance, they've let residents use company vehicles to shuttle little league players to faraway baseball games, they have profit sharing benefits with their employees, and have even helped cover shortfalls in the local school's budget so their workforce wouldn't have to contend with closing elementary schools. It's rare to find a company so readily invested in the livelihoods and communities of their workers, and that attitude has certainly helped Perham withstand the downward cycle plaguing the other agricultural communities in this part of the country. The vibe here is nice.

Tomorrow: hitting the road...

No comments:

Post a Comment