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Beaverton women volunteer time and gather to warm veterans with handmade afghans.

THE TIMES: MANDY FEDER-SAWYER - Afghans were made with love and picked up by the Veterans Administration on Thursday, Nov. 16. Cheri Stuller teaches knitting and crocheting at Michaels in Beaverton and she has gathered a crew that is gung-ho about warming veterans.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, thousands of volunteer hours put into creating handmade afghans were presented to Shaun Benson, chief of voluntary service from the Portland Veterans Administration Health Care System, to distribute to area veterans.

Benson said the blankets represent weeks, months or years of handmade love.

"This is a gift that means so much. Many veterans just treasure these and (the blankets) keep them warm literally and figuratively. It's so cool how they were able to patch all this love together," Benson said.

Stuller began knitting and crocheting for a national non-profit organization years ago called Warm Up America.

"Warm Up America was an official charity program at Michaels years ago, but they discontinued it. I had already spent years promoting it and didn't want to lose the momentum," Stuller said. "Fortunately the local store respected that and encouraged us to continue to meet. We refer to the afghans and our community service as Warm Up America, as it's based on the Warm Up America Foundation's concept developed by Evie Rosen in 1991."

More than 20 afghans were displayed at the afternoon event before Benson loaded them up for the recipients.

Jeanine Jurado, a Beaverton resident and volunteer at the Humane Society, learned about the group when she was taking some classes at Michaels.

"My uncle Fred was a Vietnam veteran with the United States Army," Jurado said. "It is so honorable to be a part of this event."

She said she loves the group and described it as "tight-knit."

The oldest member of the group, Tina Burton, is in her 80s. Burton has been with the group for about five years. She commended all the volunteers for their hard work. "A lot of yarns are donated," she said, "The whole works is a donation situation."

Yousef Binmahfoodh stopped by at the event between his classes at Portland State University to drop off blocks his mother made and sent from Saudi Arabia. She joined the group while she was on vacation visiting her sons in the Beaverton area.

"My mother just loved them," Binmahfoodh said of the group. "They still keep in touch."

Other members of the group include Amy Getzlaff, who Stuller said "makes the fanciest, most complex, labor-intensive blocks with cables, color work and slip stitches."

A long-time volunteer Dani Uth "brings the best show-and-tell — usually knitted sweaters for her granddaughter," Stuller said, "and Josette Tubbs treats these charity blocks as if she were making them for a friend or family member, using her best yarn and effort"

Mary Boucher is the newest volunteer. She said she was a Michaels store customer headed to the restroom and saw the group. She was curious about what was going on during one of the sessions and returned to her first session with enough blocks to make a large afghan.

"She crochets beautifully planned, color-coordinated blocks," Stuller said.

Pam Head scouts out bargains on yarn and donates it to the group.

Susan Braun works at Michaels and has helped spread the word about the group.

"She has been dedicated enough to drop off completed blocks for our sessions during months that she is unable to personally attend," Stuller said.

Two veterans also attended the event, Tony Nelson of Beaverton and Dave Huntley of Bend.

The Beaverton By Design Pizza is donated pizza to the volunteers and attendees for the event.

By Mandy Feder-Sawyer
Reporter, Beaverton Valley Times
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