The members of the Massac Quilter’s Guild have long believed in the power of giving back to others. Over the years, they have created a variety of items to help others — from pillowcase dresses, items for Lourdes Hospice, to pillowcases for area nursing homes.
“Those things were good,” said president Janet Mittendorf. “But we decided we wanted to do something that would make a bigger difference.”
The group decided that would be by helping veterans, but they weren’t sure how to find a local organization.
And then, Mittendorf attended a Red Hats Society meeting where This Able Veteran representatives were speaking and passing out brochures.
“I thought their program sounded amazing, so I contacted them,” Mittendorf said. “We decided we wanted to find a place that was helping veterans and we knew they were getting the help they need. We’ve found something and stuck with it.”
That was seven years ago since the partnership began. Since then, Massac Quilter’s Guild has made and raffled off quilts, raising thousands of dollars for the veterans’ organization. That latest donation was presented to This Able Veteran executive director Rebecca Renshaw on June 5.
The raffling of two quilts raised $2,442.80 during the 2023 AQS Paducah Quilt Show.
Those funds are used by This Able Veteran to train service dogs for U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Headquartered in Carbondale, This Able Veteran has been helping veterans since 2011. Serving veterans from around the country, it was founded by Behesha Doan, who is the organization’s training director and the owner of Extreme K-9. As a trauma survivor, Doan brings insight to how a correctly trained service dog, combined with a trauma resiliency program, can make a difference in the lives of those suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and those with co-occurring substance abuse. Through This Able Veteran, Doan has developed a veteran-centric model of care that involves the veterans, their clinicians, the service dogs and This Able Veteran.
Renshaw explained the training program costs over $30,000 for each service dog as they get the service dogs as puppies to start training them right away. The dogs go home every night with a trainer and are specially trained for each veteran.
“There’s a very strenuous process we go through to select both the veterans and the dogs. Service dogs are selected based on their temperament, structural soundness, proven lineage of healthy genetics and several other qualifications. Veterans must fill out an online application to be considered for the program,” Renshaw emphasized.
“Once selected, we find out what they need,” Renshaw said. “We pair the dog with the veteran based on where the veteran lives, the veteran’s lifestyle, and the temperament of them both. We train that dog for that veteran specifically.”
During its almost 12-year history, This Able Veteran has graduated 80 pairs of dogs and veterans. The next class is set to graduate in late October.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of,” Mittendorf said.
Massac Quilter’s Guild members have already begun the work on the quilt they will be raffling off during the 2024 AQS Paducah Quilt Show. The fabric and other materials will be donated allowing proceeds to go to This Able Veteran. The members divvy up the work of each block and then put it all together by January.
“Ticket sales will begin in February. Tickets are $1 each and available from guild members or during the April quilt show, during which AQS allows us to sell tickets at the Julian Carroll Convention Center,” said Mittendorf.
The Massac Quilter’s Guild was organized in 1983 to encourage interest in all phases of quilting. The group meets the first Monday of the month at the Metropolis Community Center at 9:30 a.m. with doors opening at 9 a.m. Meetings are held the second Monday if the meeting day falls on a holiday.
“We’re a very small group, but we try to get a lot done,” Mittendorf said.
For more information on This Able Veteran, visit thisableveteran.org.