Veterans Legacy Stories

Area fire departments pay it forward to Camp Alma
by Jonni Gratton

Paying it forward and supporting rural fire districts and fellow military service members is what giving back means for two area fire chiefs whose fire departments donated fire trucks to Camp Alma within the past year.

Fire Truck StoryDonated by Harrisburg FD

Once a month, area fire chief officers gather during Fire Defense Board meetings in Eugene. Dan Buckwald, Veterans Legacy Executive Director, gave a presentation on Camp Alma and garnered the generous support of two area departments.

“Dan requested that if they had any surplus equipment or apparatus they were thinking of donating or getting rid of to keep him in mind,” said Jim Bailor, assistant fire chief of Lorane Rural Fire Department who also served as a radar operator in the U.S. Army.
Today, a wildland truck with a 1,000-gallon capacity donated this winter by Lorane Rural Fire sits at Camp Alma, along with a 500-gallon ...
pumper truckFire Truck StoryDonated by Lorane Rural Fire donated earlier in the fall by Harrisburg Fire and Rescue.

Longtime Fire Chief Randy Wood, formerly fire chief of Santa Clara Fire Department and now fire chief of Lane Fire Authority, reminded Bailor of Camp Alma when Lorane Rural Fire was getting a new fireland rig. “So, we donated the engine to Veterans Legacy,” Bailor said.

Lorane Rural Fire received the wildland truck from the Oregon Department of Forestry when ODF was updating. “We’ve had it for over 20 years. It’s been good to us,” Bailor said. “The procedure in rural districts is that if you have a piece of equipment, instead of selling it, you donate to a district that’s just starting up. You pass it forward to the next agency starting. Basically, Veterans Legacy (Camp Alma) is up the road, so we decided to donate to them.”

Bart Griffith, Harrisburg Fire and Rescue Chief who served as an infantry squad leader in the U.S. Marine Corps, said, “We have a lot of Vets on the board of Fire Truck Story directors and in the fire department. As far as selling (the 500-gallon pumper truck), the sell price was not worth it. So, as a donation to Veterans Legacy, that was right up our alley.”

“We have a connection to it. We enjoyed that vehicle and would rather see it used by a Veterans group. That’s more important for those of us who have served. Anytime we can help our Veterans, we are all for that,” he said. The two fire trucks will serve as fire protection for the structures and the surrounding woodlands at Camp Alma and provide Veteran residents with mechanical and wildland fire experience, including joint training in the future.

Our Sewing Room quilters provide Camp Alma Vets with comfort and warmth from the heart
by Jonni Gratton

For those who quilt, the art form holds special meaning. It symbolizes heritage, storytelling, resourcefulness and staying safe, warm and cozy. A special group of area quilters are carrying on the tradition for Camp Alma, where over 35Quilters Story
Our Sewing Room Quilters with Dan Buckwald snuggly, warm quilts adorn the walls. These quilts are starting a new heritage story for Veterans who will call the camp home as they start their journey in recovery. Each resident Veteran will be given their own quilt to use and take with them as they transition back into society — a heartfelt reminder that they are honored and loved.
     “I do this because it will keep someone warm. My quilt has its first owner, the first Vet has my quilt.” said avid quilter Joyce Campbell, who helped start the group. Joyce is one of many quilters of Our Sewing Room, located in downtown Springfield. It’s a bustling storefront shop with individual and group sewers, quilters, costume makers and crafters making all kinds of incredible pieces of work for all kinds of projects...

Mary Jo Moloney, an antique dealer and self-described “scavenger from way back,” and her husband, Don, are owners of Our Sewing Room, a membership-based facility that’s been around for about 10 years. The couple bought the building back in 1985 when it was an antique store. When the space became available, they started Our Sewing Room and relied on their re-use sensibilities to equip the shop with old donated solid maple school tables for sewing projects, recycled cabinets for cloth and materials and lots of used and new sewing machines and irons, to be utilized by all at the “gathering place for friends.”

As it happens, it was a group of friends who brought Camp Alma and Our Sewing Room together. Dan Buckwald, Veterans Legacy Executive Director, gave one of his Camp Alma tours to some friends from Cottage Grove, including Molly Patterson who Joyce also knows. CampQuiltersMary Joe Moloney & Joyce Campbell Alma was previously the Lane County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Work Camp for years before it was closed down due to funding issues. About eight years later when Veterans Legacy took over the camp, they were challenged with what to do with racks of new and used jeans and denim jackets that had been left behind. The problem was “INMATE” and “Property of Lane County Sheriff’s Office” was stamped on one pant leg and on the back of jackets.

Molly suggested cutting off the stamps and she cut up the jeans material into smaller pieces, ending up with about three large totes which she gave to Joyce to take to Our Sewing Room. “The jeans started the process,” Joyce said. “Some quilts are made with all jeans, some with jeans and other materials, some with jeans pockets, some without jeans, and others just felt like Camp Alma.”

Her first camp quilt was red, white and blue using Pendleton material. “It’s really soft. To touch it is fun, which is the back of the quilt,” Joyce said. “They’re made for use, they’re made for touching. I left some of the pockets to put your foot in if your cold, and to put stuff in. The jeans, in particular, are heavier. They have a weight to it to wrap up in.”

After the first quilts were made with the jeans material, Dan took a group of quilters out for a tour of Camp Alma, providing an informative talk about Veterans Legacy and the camp along the way. Joyce and Mary Jo enjoyed the trip so much that they’re ready for another tour to see all of the camp progress that’s been made over the past year and a half.

Fire Truck Story Personal grooming kits for Camp Alma Vets

Since their initial tour, the quilters and sewers have been busy at work, with the Camp Alma quilt count now at about 50. And, it all started from the community sewing shop.

Mary Jo, a retired RN, garment maker, antique peddler, bed and breakfast owner and now sewing room proprietor, didn’t learn how to quilt until after she was 70 years old. Her first quilt, a denim and flannel, was started for her RV. She ended up selling the RV and found out about Veterans Legacy and four years later, her first quilt was finished and donated to the camp. It’s a cowboy-themed quilt, which is her favorite, as well as a camp favorite. Her husband, Don, a former Arizona Air Force reservist and retired Eugene Fire Department captain, helps to keep the shop running smoothly, including fixing the sewing room equipment and keeping the sewing machines running.

“It’s just a way of giving back to the community. I feel really good that I can see all of this stuff going to all of the different charities. Veterans Legacy was getting started and we could beCamp Alma QuiltCamp Alma Quilt involved in helping to make that a success,” Mary Jo reflected. The creative group isn’t only making quilts. Dish towels and men’s toiletry bags are also in the works and the shop is collecting items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, sanitizer soap and other items for Camp Alma Veterans.

All of the quilters and sewers at Our Sewing Room are not only helping Camp Alma but other various organizations, too, such as Bags of Love for cancer patients and kids in crisis, Jasper Mountain for at-risk youth and the Eugene Mission for homeless folks, to name a few. All of the pieces come together to help our community, starting from the smallest scrap of material to the groups who create together — all making life better for those in need.