Tears well up as Becky Mahurin talks about a program that is near and dear to her heart.
Growing up as an “Air Force brat,” Mahurin holds those who serve and have served their country in high regard. It’s the main reason she volunteered and now serves as group leader for the Lewis-Clark Quilts of Valor program.
Craig Clohessy: Share a little more about why you became involved with Quilts of Valor.
Becky Mahurin: My dad was in the military in the Air Force for 33 years, fighting in World War II and in Korea. He retired in April of 1975. As I started seeing Quilts of Valor brochures, it intrigued me. So I grabbed a brochure and took it home with me. At the time my parents were elderly back in Oklahoma and it took me a little bit after that first brochure to be able to have the time to get involved. I got involved in 2015 in the fall. I personally had never sewn a quilt top. I had sewn most of my life, as most of us my age have. I actually started with Girl Scouts through junior high, making most of my own clothes, and into adulthood. But sewing a quilt is a little bit of a different game than a pattern and scissors to make a top or a blouse or a skirt or something. That was a challenge to learn the lingo, how to use the tools, what it meant, but once I got involved with that I was hooked, I was hooked. ... As they say, once you get hooked on something then the rest becomes history.
CC: And you’re doing it for such a great program.
BM: Oh, absolutely. I have multiple relatives who have served, World War II, Korea, World War I and further back. I’m a member of the local DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapter, so my lineage goes clear back to patriots in the Revolutionary War.
CC: Tell me if you would a little bit about the program.
BM: Quilts of Valor actually started back in 2003. A lady by the name of Catherine Roberts had a son who was deployed in Iraq and of course you’re always on the edge when you have children out serving in conflict. She had a dream one night about an active-duty service member who was really struggling with his demons, his memories of battle. She could tell in her dream he was just really struggling. Later in that same dream he was wrapped up in a quilt and he had gotten calm, he was able to go back to sleep, he was restful, his memories had gone back by the wayside. So, to her, quilts equaled healing. That’s how she founded Quilts of Valor. ... We’re in all 50 states across the country. Nationwide we have 11,000 members and in the local valley we are Lewis-Clark Quilts of Valor and we have about 68 local members. They are an amazing group. Amazing.
CC: You do presentations of the quilts throughout the year, correct?
BM: We do awards. And we have to call it an award because presentation can imply that it’s a present or a gift. ... Gifts are not allowed. But if it’s an award, it’s different. So we do awards. ... We have multiple group awards that we make throughout the year. Then we also do individual one-on-one awards.
CC: Is there a particular individual or quilt that sticks out in your mind?
BM: I’ve had quilts that I’ve made for friends, close friends and they’ve meant a lot. You always feel like you’re putting your signature on those quilts. The first quilt that I actually designed on my own was for my uncle who served in Korea. He was my mom’s brother. He is still alive. He’s 92. I took it with me to Texas and awarded it to him, which was a surprise to him and meant everything. Many times our recipients, they either are shocked with appreciation, they are grabbed with tears, emotion that flows — it’s amazing the reactions that we get from the recipients.
CC: This isn’t your first volunteer effort. You helped start Winter Spirit, the annual holiday decorating out at Locomotive Park.
BM: I co-founded that with Larry Kopczynski. In 1994, we did a small display, actually a Christmas tree across from Dairy Queen. (That lot now houses) the Territorial Capitol. So we put up a tall Christmas tree there. The next year we added lights and things in Locomotive Park and then from there it took off. We were supported by the Lewiston Chamber at the time and then we broke out into our own group, Winter Spirit. And I was in it for 10 years.
CC: You’re currently not involved with Winter Spirit, is that correct?
BM: Eventually you have to turn it over to the next group who are doing an amazing job with the park down there. I love seeing what they’re doing. I’ve also been involved with the Lewiston-Clarkston Kiwanis Club. I was in that club for 10-15 years. And I’m currently a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Alice Whitman Chapter. In fact, this Saturday we are awarding 16 Quilts of Valor to veterans at the chapter meeting.
CC: Anything else you’d like to add?
BM: I just feel like Quilts of Valor is so important. It’s got my heart. Just seeing the type of release ... especially when we award Vietnam veterans. That release of emotion and that comforting knowing that somebody cares and someone is saying to them, “Welcome home.” Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve been thanked for their service or certainly they’ve received a hug for their service.
Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2251.