One Bristol resident has taken it upon herself to find ways to help fund a volunteer organization that makes and ships quilts to members of the military.
Military mom JoAnne Camara has seen her son off on three deployments in the last four years. So when her son Thomas was deployed to Afghanistan for the second time on Jan. 2, 2012, Camara sought to keep his spirits up by sending him a quilt made by volunteers in Wisconsin. They're not just any quilts, though: these are made from the same material as military uniforms so that the troops can use them out in the open and strap them to the outside of their bags.
"I heard about the organization and was amazed at what they do," Camara said, noting that the volunteers make the quilts for free and ship them straight to the soldier.
But after Camara placed her order, she couldn't help but think of the other 25 troops in her son's group that would gladly welcome a gift from home. Then, when she learned that her son would be working with another group of 26 Navy Seabees, she knew she had to reach out to the organization to see if something could be done for them as well.
After an emotional and awe-inspiring experience working with the Camo Quilt Project organizer, Linda Wieck, the organization sent out 52 Camo Quilts to the two groups, including Camara's son, at no cost to her other than the postage.
"You have no idea what a difference something like that can make," Camara said. "My son called me and said, 'Ma, you should have seen it. The whole camp was covered with troops in these blankets.'"
Now, inspired by the organization's kindness, Camara has taken it upon herself to find ways to help support Camo Quilt Project's efforts.
"When I talked to Wieck she said that a lot of people don't even realize the war is still going on because it's not really in the mainstream media anymore, so the donations to the group have been very sparse," Camara said.
She said it costs about $25 in material for each of the quilts to be made. In an effort to help the organization continue to deliver the comfort of home overseas, Camara has spent the last month and a half distributing flyers and sending out mass e-mails to friends, family and community members sharing her story and asking for their help to pay it forward.
"A lot of times people don't know what they can do for our troops," Camara said. "But this is the perfect opportunity to give them something they can use and can remind them of the love they have back home."
So far, Camara has received donations totaling more than $3,370, which she says is the equivalent to more than 135 quilts.
"When I first wrote the letter and sent it to everyone on my email list, the checks started pouring in," Camara said. "A lot of the checks came in with notes for me and my family that I have been saving in a scrapbook. The outpouring of love from this community has been overwhelming."
According to Camara, 100 percent of the donations will be sent to the organization and will be spent on materials to make the quilts for men and women in the military. In total, the Camo Quilt Project has made 15,365 quilts in the last six years.
"The love from home that they feel when they get these quilts is something that just can't be measured, that's why it is so important," Camara said.
Anyone interested in paying it forward with Camara is encouraged to send donations. Checks should be made payable to Franklin Legion Post #387 and mailed to:
15 Wilcox Lane
Bristol, RI 02809