As of this week, the Freedom Quilts project has hit the 5,000-quilt mark in its effort to deliver a handmade memorial to the families of every victim of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and every family of servicepeople lost in the combat efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Betty Nielsen of Fonda started the project as a response to 9-11, and says today that she may never see the end of her volunteer effort.
"As of today, we have delivered 4,500 of our quilts, and as we look at the data base, we are not half done with the 9-11 victims, and the number of soldiers' families keep on piling up," Neilsen said.
The project has sewed up national attention, and on March 10, the American Red Cross will honor Freedom Quilts with the rare Heroes of the Heartland Award for all it has done.
Neilsen and her husband have made seven trips to the east coast, delivering the quilts in person to gatherings of survivors families. They have also traveled to Fort Hood in Texas to deliver to soldiers families. All of this travel has come out of the local family's own pockets.
Where will it all end?
"I'm going to keep on going," Nielsen said. "Every time I get to the point where I get kind of down or overwhelmed, or we run out of funds, I get a letter or a phone call from one of the families we have given a quilt to, and it reminds me how meaningful this can be to them."
The project is still in need of donations of money and materials. There is little overhead cost, but scissors and sewing machine needles must be replaced, batting must be purchased, and quilt packages mailed out to many of the families who cannot be reached in person.
Freedom Quilts is a non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible. Volunteer quilters are still welcome, and the group is also looking for someone with experience in grant writing.
Donations can be made to Freedom Quilts, in care of Betty Nielsen, at 13637 550th Street, Fonda, 50540