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Hometown Hero: Marty Alexander

SPONSORED — Marty Alexander has a standing Thursday afternoon date; she, along with a group of volunteers, spends several hours a week in stitches — literally. The group, which meets at the Grandstaff Memorial Library on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, makes quilts for children, thanks to Alexander’s key belief: “All kids could use a quilt.”

This idea came to her after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “I was working in the children’s room at the library, and we noticed the kids acting differently. At the same time, I saw a television program about making a six-hour quilt and I thought, That’s a good combination.”

That combination has become a yearslong labor of love, as Alexander and her organization, Quilts for Kids, have now gifted 1,984 handmade quilts to children.

At first, the quilts were made specifically for the children of deployed parents, in hopes that the juvenile prints and cozy fabrics would brighten their thoughts and warm their hearts.

“Now we give quilts to any children,” Alexander said.

Making nearly 2,000 quilts is no small feat. Thanks to Grandstaff Memorial Library, where Alexander worked for 30 years, the group of volunteers, which fluctuates as spouses of military personnel come and go, has a place to meet each week to stitch, iron, fold and cut.

Alexander, who was recently recognized by WSECU and KIRO Radio as a Hometown Hero, is happy to teach anyone willing to wield a sewing machine or a pair of scissors.

“People come in and don’t want to sew, so they pin, trim, iron, and we make these quilts in an assembly line so we’re not working on one quilt start to finish,” she said. “There’s always something for novices to do.”

Of course, there are ways to give without putting in time. Quilts for Kids uses materials and supplies donated by individuals and businesses in the community. The group is always in need of fabric in fun, juvenile prints; batting, and other sewing supplies. While the group has a regular place to meet at Grandstaff Memorial Library, Alexander said the organization could use a larger space.

“We’d like to stay on Fort Lewis,” she said, “but we’re growing out of the library.”

For Alexander, the project has been not only a way to give back to the community around her but also a fun pastime.

“You’ve never lived until you’ve seen a nurse — a colonel — ripping out a seam with her buck knife,” she said.

For more information on Quilts for Kids, or to donate to the cause, visit the Joint Base Lewis-McChord MWR Family & Morale, Welfare & Recreation website, or call 253-967-5889. For those with access to Fort Lewis, materials and donations can be dropped off at the Grandstaff Memorial Library.

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