A Hays woman is on a mission to cover veterans throughout northwest Kansas.
In the last two years, Renata Kraft has made 24 Quilts of Valor for veterans, most in Ness County, but other area counties as well. She has worked with the Greater Wichita Quilts of Valor to present quilts to more than 70 others.
She estimates all surviving World War II veterans in Ness County have received quilts, but she knows there are far more across the region, as well as Korean and Vietnam veterans who are aging as well.
“I know I can only make them so fast,” she said.
She said she has requests for 14 more to make. Supplies for each quilt total about $250, she said.
To help with expenses of making and presenting the quilts, she has made a 90-by-90-inch quilt that will be raffled at a taco night fundraiser April 8 in Utica.
Proceeds from the raffle will go toward Krafty Quilters, which now includes her cousin Rick Kraft. Her parents, Delven and Vivian Kraft also help out by purchasing batting, and her father, cousin and friend Ray Morgan have provided transportation to presentations.
Rick Kraft started sewing quilt blocks just recently and has completed six for a star quilt. He hasn’t sewn since making a suit in high school, he said.
“I’ve been in construction all my life. It’s just like working with something you don’t have to worry about slivers,” he said with a laugh.
Working with Renata has given him a new life, he said.
“I lost a lung in 2014. At the time I had nothing to live for. This has given me a second chance at life. I love helping serve the public,” he said.
Morgan, a Vietnam veteran, said it’s been a help to him.
“I get a great feeling just out of assisting other vets with the presentations. I get a lot of the stories. Some of that’s heart-rendering,” he said.
Renata Kraft tries to learn as much about the veteran and adds design elements that reflect his or her service with each quilt, she said.
“When you present the quilt, that’s sometimes the first chance they’ve had to tell their story,” she said.
While she’s grateful for the assistance from family and friends, her church area veterans organizations, as well as others in the region who have helped with longarm quilting and stitching, she said more help is needed, especially with more young men and women coming home from serving in the military.
She said she learned recently of two men from Bazine just leaving for service overseas.
“If I can figure out a way to have two quilts made for when they come home come next year, I’m going to try so that way we’re getting some of the newer vets covered and hopefully they don’t have to live as many years as our Vietnam veterans and Korean veterans have with PTSD and other health issues,” she said.
“Every veteran is deserving of a Quilt of Valor, but our veterans who have seen combat, those are the ones you hope it can be healing for them,” she said.