MEDFORD, N.J. — “Stitched with love.”

That was the message on the back of each personalized quilt made for a group of Air Force servicemen and women who recently returned from a four-month deployment.

The Berry Basket Quilters, based in the Medford Leas retirement community, learned that the airmen would be coming home soon and decided to make quilts for all 32 of them, plus seven smaller blankets for those with children.

They presented the colorful quilts, many of which had an Americana theme, to Lt. Melissa Torchon and Staff Sgt. Jackie Vanwagner to accept on their squadron’s behalf on Aug. 9. The airmen are stationed on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

“It’s overwhelming, and it’s exciting. I’m very thankful,” Vanwagner said before she received her brown-and-white patterned quilt.

The quilters have made blankets for returning service members before, but they had never donated so many at once to one military group, according to quilter Carol Edwards.

The Burlington County Times ( reports the idea came from Torchon, who was once in the same squadron as Marie Sheradan, a retired master sergeant and former Berry Basket quilter. Torchon remembered that Sheradan would often ask the group to make quilts for airmen coming home from deployment, and she wanted to do the same for her colleagues after her own time overseas.

“It was a badge of honor to know you’re deployed, and next you would earn a quilt,” Torchon said.

She reached out to Sheradan, who helped connect her with the quilters.

But making more than three dozen quilts before the airmen were due home in six weeks — a very short time frame — would prove to be a challenging task. Each quilt can take from two to four weeks to make.

“It was really a huge effort that everyone came together for,” Edwards said.

Torchon was ecstatic to take the quilts back to the joint base for her team. She reached out to the quilters to find a way to remind her military colleagues that their work at home was appreciated, she said.

“I wanted them to realize that there are people back home that didn’t forget about them,” she said.


Information from: Burlington County Times (Willingboro, N.J.),

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