Iowa Winter Texan Honoring Veterans of Patriot Pointe
by Rocio Villalobos
In 2018, Gwen Baker founded Quilts of Valor in Lemon Tree RV Park (now Patriot Pointe) to honor veterans with a handcrafted quilt. Since beginning the initiative, she and other volunteers have worked to bestow a quilt upon every veteran in the park. Among the first recipients were two WWII veterans in their 90s.
Prior to starting Quilts of Valor at the Mission resort, Gwen had been active with the organization back home in Iowa for years. Last summer she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). She has limited speech and movement, so she isn’t able to keep as active in the park as she once was, but Gwen still tries to help with activities, however she can.
February 22, Gwen and other QOV volunteers will award 19 veterans with quilts they made. The recipients are honored with a ceremony, which their friends and family are invited to attend. Afterward, they celebrate with cake and ice cream. Gwen describes the ceremony as “emotional” and said the veterans are extremely appreciative.
Although she can no longer quilt, Gwen still attends the park’s twice-a-week sewing classes to oversee and offer guidance. She spent over a decade as a home-economics teacher and is known as one of the best sewers in the park. Whenever neighbors needed a pair of pants hemmed, they took the garment to Gwen.
She and her husband, Jim, have been visiting the park for 15 years. One activity they’ve both been involved in is the Thursday pancake suppers, to which park residents invite people from other resorts.
Between 250 and 400 people attend and are served unlimited pancakes and coffee for $3.50. To make this possible, 38 people volunteer every week to help cook and serve. Gwen used to volunteer as a waitress, moving from table to table to see if anyone wanted more coffee or pancakes.
Jim said the visitors often ask how much the volunteers are paid to help because not very many people volunteer in their own park. However, they are unpaid and just enjoy lending their help and time.
“We have a good time doing it and, well, we’re just a big family,” Jim said.
Every couple of years, the park puts out a picture book featuring photos and the contact information of its residents. Gwen helped create the most recent edition, a project which took her two to three months.
And for years, she led the morning exercises, which she enjoyed because it helped to keep her pain under control.
These days, Gwen’s favorite things to do include visiting her favorite local restaurants with her husband and friends and continuing to honor local vets through Quilts of Valor.
If you have someone you’d like to nominate for our spotlight feature, please complete the application below. We’ll be in touch with you if your nominee is selected.