Dec. 24, 2012
Monica Lara, OVN correspondent
Sending out a message of hope to as many wounded soldiers as she can, an avid sewer in Ojai makes about 20 quilts a month to help provide the GIs with comfort and warmth during their healing.
“I do this to let them know that a lot of people care that they are serving our country,” said Marilyn Cantello, 80. “They don’t need to know you and you don’t need to know them, but it’s something that makes you feel like you are doing something very important.”
She makes each of her quilts to fit on the soldiers’ laps when they are sitting in bed or in a wheelchair. She always creates a unique patriotic design on the top side with red, white and blue. On the underside she puts soft flannel so the quilt hugs the soldiers and clings to their pajamas or clothes to keep them warm. Each quilt is different, but every one gets an embroidered badge saying “To an American hero. War on terrorism. From the Sunshine Sewers.” She pins on a personal note to each quilt, as well, before shipping them out.
“I want them to be special,” Cantello explained.
She began making her quilts for soldiers 10 years ago when she led a sewing group in Arizona, the Sunshine Sewers. She and 17 other women made different designs to send to a hospital in Washington, D.C. With family in the military, the project was important to her. Her grandson graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point and was deployed to Iraq. She got to see how important gifts were to the soldiers when she would send him lemon cakes and toys for him and his friends to give to local children.
“It was so exciting for them because the kids over there don’t own one thing of their own,” Cantello said.
As her sewing group members gradually dispersed, she decided to continue the project on her own. For the past five years, soldiers being treated at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, have been the recipient of her efforts.
“Knowing you put your heart and soul into making the quilts boosts the morale of service members,” CSM Victor Garcia wrote in a letter to Cantello. “It is highly dedicated individuals like yourself who make the United States of America a great country to live in and make us proud to serve.”
She keeps all the thank you letters she has received from the soldiers who get one of her quilts.
“When she reads them, she just starts to cry,” said Charles Cantello, 79, Marilyn’s husband. “I love her heart. She’s such a born giver and she does this without expecting anything in return. It’s her mission. It’s something that’s in her heart she has to do.”
Cantello sews additional quilts to benefit others, including orphans in Columbia, Mexico. Her church, Church of Living Christ in Ojai, sponsors the orphanage. She sent them a box of quilts for the holidays.
“I will continue as long as I am able and as long as there are wounded soldiers,” Cantello added.