80 quilts to be donated to veterans at Madison’s VA Hospital

Group delivers gifts on Veterans Day
80 quilts to be donated to veterans at Madison’s VA Hospital

People do all sorts of things to give thanks. This Veterans Day, a group of women will do it by spending hours on handmade gifts for veterans at Madison’s VA Hospital.

Alice Asleson, described as the Quilting Queen, has a love for cutting and stitching together works of art. She began sharing that love with a group called Quilting by the River Friends in 2004.

“My first husband had been a disabled veteran and I know over all the years all the good care he got and he appreciated everything. So I kind of wanted to give back in his memory,” said Asleson when asked why she started the group.

Her husband, Dan Fix, developed a kidney condition while serving stateside during the Vietnam era. He died in 1999.

The members make quilts for veterans at the VA Hospital in Madison, each one unique and complete with a pillowcase. The quilters then make a trip to the hospital and personally deliver the gifts on Veterans Day, often engaging in conversation with patients.

“It’s really overwhelming walking in because I think the sadness kind of hits me, but leaving is just such a great feeling to know that you’ve given to them,” described Asleson. “A lot of the patients will say, ‘Oh give it to someone else that really needs it. Give it to someone else’. When you tell them you made it just for them they really do appreciate it.”

From start to finish, it can take roughly 30 hours to make one quilt. Their first year, the group had 13 to donate. This year they have 80.

“Sometimes when you first start putting it together its like ‘this looks weird,’ but when you get it all together it just falls into place,” said Dee Butler, president of Quilting by the River Friends.

The women enjoy each others’ company with laughter and snacks, but when asked about their willingness to give to veterans they don’t know, they are sincere.

“Once you go in there they’re so appreciative, and it’s like ‘No, I thank you.’ You don’t have to thank me for the quilt that’s yours to enjoy,” said member Donna Dalby.

“I’ve always thought giving handmade gifts was giving a part of yourself to them, and it means a lot to me to do that and they enjoy it,” said member Carol Welch.

Over the a decade, Butler estimated they have donated between 600 and 700 quilts.

If you’re interested in learning more about the group or donating blocks you can reach Alice Asleson at tomnalicea@gmail.com