After more than six decades of sewing, Alice Fogg of Naples knows a thing or two about the craft, and she’s putting that knowledge to good use by making pillows for battle-weary soldiers.

Using the “good old” Singer sewing machine she bought 60 years ago after marrying her husband Richard, Fogg spends most of her free time out on her winterized porch making small pillows, which she then mails from the South Casco Post Office to military hospitals and bases overseas. So far, she’s mailed 1,600 pillows in 14 months, no small feat for the spry 82-year-old who lives at the end of Edes Falls Road.

The small cotton-covered pillows with polyester filling have proved useful for the soldiers. They have been used as head rests for sleeping, and the small pillows have come in handy as props for bed-ridden soldiers at military hospitals or as shock absorbers for injured soldiers during long plane transits. They have even found there way into the hands of impoverished children in Iraq.

Fogg designs the pillows in two color schemes: brightly colored pillows find a home in military hospitals, which she said could use a little cheer. And dark-colored or khaki-colored pillows go to the front lines where stealth is required.

Fogg, who says sewing helps with her arthritis, also enjoys the positive feedback her pillows have received from soldiers and military hospital administrators. She said the pillows are a labor of love and go to a good cause.

“They say there’s a shortage of pillows, so I feel proud to be helping because they’re really needed,” Fogg said.

The pillow-making effort began with Fogg’s daughter, Ellen. She and her Edes Falls Sewing Circle began making dark-colored, beanie-style acrylic hats for the soldiers several years ago. Knowing her mother wasn’t fond of knitting hats, Ellen immediately thought of Alice when she heard about the soldiers’ need for pillows.

“It’s been a fabulous outlet for her,” Ellen Fogg said. “She feels like she’s doing something good for the troops, which is a nice thing.”

Making initial contact with the soldiers hasn’t been easy, however. There is no central place to turn to find current addresses to ship the hats and pillows, so they track the news to find when and where Maine soldiers are being deployed and then make contact with commanders.

The lack of a central clearinghouse is a problem, said Dottie Clark of Hearthside Road in Standish, mother of Ellen Fogg’s boyfriend and maker of beanie hats.

“The only problem as I see it is getting a regular place to send these things,” she said. “At this point, we just watch the news and get a hold of people as they leave Maine (for Iraq and Afghanistan). It’s really ridiculous.”

Since it’s hard to keep track of local National Guard troops, Alice Fogg has been focusing her efforts on making pillows for the wounded soldiers at military hospitals such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan.

And for her tenacious efforts, Fogg has received plenty of praise from those in command. Lt. Col. David Vashon, commander of the 101st Civil Engineers for the Maine Air National Guard based in Bangor, wrote Alice Fogg a letter earlier this month from Baghdad, Iraq, with an accompanying photograph of the Maine regiment.

In his hand-written letter, Vashon said, “You are truly a wonderful person to think of us and to give of your time and skill. The airmen enjoy the pillows and have taken some over to the Iraqi children who live in the surrounding areas. The children have very little.”

This kind of response overjoys Fogg. “I could see my pillows were needed, and that keeps me going,” she said.

Dr. Bradford Williams at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Afghanistan also wrote Fogg recently with the following letter of appreciation: “I wish to acknowledge and thank you for your generous gift of handmade pillows … I can tell you from talking to several patients that your handmade pillows make such an experience for many young men and women much more tolerable. All appreciated your gift and time and effort in making them.”

But the venture isn’t cheap. Polyfil-brand pillow stuffing costs about $20 for a 10-pound box, and after 1,600 pillows, the expenses are adding up. Add in postage, which costs 60 cents per pillow to ship from Maine to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the costs are into the thousands of dollars so far.

As a result, the Foggs welcome any help whatsoever. In particular, boxes of Polyfil, 100 percent cotton cloth, or monetary donations to help with postage are needed. Richard and Alice Fogg will accept donations at their door at 402 Edes Falls Road, or people can call Alice Fogg at 693-6549 to make other arrangements.

82-year-old Alice Fogg of Naples has made 1,600 pillows so far for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Staff photo by John Balentine)

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