ROCHESTER - A confluence of love and gratitude sewn together stitch by stitch warmed the heart and soul of an Air Force veteran on Saturday.
Greg Berk of Dover, who served as a jet engine mechanic at Nellis Air Force base in Las Vegas, Nev., was presented with a handmade quilt by the Wraps of Love, a local quilting group run by Paula Richey.
Richey, who is president of the Roland E. Patnode Jr American Legion Auxiliary Unit #7 in Rochester, began Wraps of Love three years ago to honor those who have served their country both home and abroad.
For Berk, who helps run the Second Chance Thrift Store on Winter Street, it was the gift of a lifetime: much appreciated but never expected.
|Greg Berk holds his special presentation poem plaque as he wraps himself in a Wraps of Love quilt on Saturday.|
"You do some nice stuff, but it seems like no one recognizes it, so it felt good that someone recognizes you for something," Berk said on Tuesday.
And Berk and thrift shop owner Lisa Martin do a lot of nice stuff for the people who come into their shop every day, some struggling with addiction or mental health issues, others just down on their luck.
"They come in here and get any kind of clothes for a dollar," Berk said. "Plus they can get pans, microwaves, towels, sheets, plastic goods, stuff they need.
"The big thing is not everybody can afford to go to Walmart and buy clothes," Berk continued. "Once a couple came in here and they lost everything; something happened and they lost everything. They were a family of eight. They were down and out, but they were able to buy two kitchen tables and eight chairs. They said it was the first time they'd all been able to sit down for dinner together."
Berk said it's true some people come in to the shop strung out on drugs, but, "no matter, you still have to take care of them."
Richey said she learned of Berk's Air Force service after he bought a bunch of items Wraps of Love was selling at a fund-raising event held at the Rochester American Legion.
Berk said he bought them to sell at the 1 Winter St. thrift shop.
His generosity and service to his country inspired Richey and her group of six other quilters to produce a beautiful quilt crafted especially for him.
"I love it," Berk chuckled. "I use it when I'm watching TV. I didn't want to get it dirty, but they said you better use it. That's what it's for."
"A lot of vets we give them to don't want to use them, they want to hang them on the wall, but we make them to last and we want them to be used," she said.
|Paula Richey, president of the Roland E. Patnode Jr American Legion Auxiliary Unit #7 in Rochester, at ceremony earlier this year recognizing her work.|
In three years Richey's group of quilters have given more than 150 quilts to deserving servicemen and women.
"All of us get so much satisfaction when we honor a veteran and see a tear coming out of their eye when we are trying to honor them," she said. "We gave one to a Vietnam vet recently who said, 'This is the best thing that happened to me since coming home.' It's touching someone's life."
When Wraps of Love presents a serviceman with a quilt it is always accompanied by a plaque and dedication message.
Here is the one that accompanied Berk's quilt.
Greg Berk United States Air force 1984- 1988
We present this quilt to you that was made with loving care to honor you for your Military service during warfare.
This quilt was designed with your Military service in mind, we had to capture your service throughout all of our finds.
The fabric was chosen for the sacrifices you made we found patterns and colors for a patriotic display.
Each cut of the fabric and squares that were pinned, made us reflect on the branch of service that you were in.
It was stitched to last a lifetime as you will see, so we could honor you with great pride and dignity.
Because you fought for our freedom with dedication, we present this quilt to you to show our appreciation.
As you wrap this quilt around you remember it was created from the heart, something that we hope is treasured just as you are.
The American Legion Auxiliary Unit #7
Wraps of Love