Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Handmade quilts to greet new residents of Old Main
When Veterans move into Old Main next month, a little bit of comfort will greet them in their new apartments – handmade quilts.
Those quilts are courtesy of the West Suburban Quilters Guild of Brookfield.
“If people walked into their new home and saw a quilt there made just for them, I think that would brighten their day,” said Mary Margaret Wacker, guild member who organized the project. “This would make them feel like this is home.
“Blankets and quilts are sometimes called comforters, and we hope these will comfort them.”
The guild’s goal is to have as many quilts as possible in the apartments when they open on March 1. Wacker said about 20 quilts have been completed, and quilters are continuing to work.
She said about a dozen members have been working on quilts since August.
“Everyone is very, very happy to do this,” she said. “We like to say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ when we see Veterans in the airport or at a coffee shop, but I don’t think we do a lot for them.
“This was something we could do individually to help.”
The project began when Wacker and her husband bought bicycles in order to get out of the house and get some exercise during the pandemic.
Their rides would take them down the Hank Aaron State Trail, which goes through the Milwaukee VA Medical Center campus and very close to Old Main – aka the Milwaukee Soldiers Home.
Since the fall of 2019, a massive renovation effort has been underway to convert the historic building – first opened in 1867 as a home for disabled Civil War Veterans – into housing for homeless Veterans or those at risk of becoming homeless.
Wacker said she knew little about the building and the renovation effort, but became intrigued when she saw the ongoing work during her bike rides.
Seeing the building up close was much different than glimpses from the interstate, she said.
“It’s just beautiful,” she said. “And when we saw the scaffolding and the signs about turning it into a home for homeless Veterans. … I got to thinking, ‘What can we do to help?’”
So she put out the call to her fellow quilters. Like so many idled by the pandemic, they were eager to take on the project.
“They were more than pleased to help,” she said.
After a few phone calls, Wacker connected with the Alexander Co., which is handling the renovation project.
“I was taken aback by their generosity,” said Kendra Bishop, director of marketing and public relations for Alexander Co. “My mother is a quilter, and I know the time and work it takes.”
Wacker said the guild often steps up to create items for charities, churches and other organizations that assist those in need.
In the past, the guild has made walker bags for nursing home residents, soup bowl cozies, pillow cases and even masks.
“A lot of quilters find time to help others,” she said.
There are 101 units in the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, ranging from one-bedroom apartments to duplexes that can accommodate families.
Wacker said she hopes other quilting guilds step up and contribute to the project in order to assure a handmade quilt for every Veteran who moves in.
“It would be great to have a constant supply for new residents,” she said. “it just pleases me to think of someone walking into the room and feeling warmed.”