Threads of hope
SWARTZ CREEK – Hundreds of buttons and bows, millions of stitches, miles of fabric and immeasurable love have gone from sewing rooms throughout the Swartz Creek area, to places across the globe, where something as simple as a new, clean dress can make a world of difference to little girls.
“When we do it for the least of them, we do it in the name of Jesus,” said Kathy Strauss, of Flushing.
Strauss is one of about a dozen women from the United Methodist Church of Swartz Creek who make dresses to donate to Little Dresses for Africa (http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/), a Michiganbased charity.
Dressmaker Jeanette Lindsey helped launch the movement locally six years ago. Since then, the women have sewn and donated more than 2,000 dresses.
Little Dresses for Africa, established in 2008, has sent more than 3.5 million dresses to girls around the world. The charity reaches children in 83 countries. In the United States, dresses are distributed in the Appalachian region and South Dakota. The group’s motto is “We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending hope.”
“As Christians, it is our responsibility,” said Strauss. “These are gifts of love.”
“We all have charitable hearts,” said Judy Barker of Swartz Creek, who joined the effort after hearing about how girls in some areas of the world are treated as though they do not matter. “When I sew, I envision big smiles. I hope we plant the seed that, in the name of Jesus, they are worthy.”
At first, all of the dresses were made from pillowcases, using various notions and a simple pattern (http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/patterns/).
These days, many of the women also use fabric from bolts. They scope out garage sales, keep close watch for discounts and close-outs at craft shops, and dig through bins and shelves of remnants looking for bright, cheerful patterns.
In addition, Swartz Creek seamstress Yukie Wyatt puts together kits with all the essentials, which volunteers can take home, assemble and return to the church. Often, friends of the seamstresses ask for the kits and/or the patterns so they may pitch in, too.
Each dress takes about an hour to sew and adorn. The volunteers say they take care to ensure that the dresses are wellmade, with no puckering seams or errant threads.
“It makes me feel good to do this,” said Doris Beebe, who has been known to make 100 dresses in a year from her Swartz Creek home. “It’s the idea of doing something for children. I like doing things for kids. I like the idea that some little girl is going to wear the dress I made.”
Clean, new dresses also help protect the girls from sexual abuse because “predators assume someone is taking care of them,” said Barker.
Strauss said the work is “a lot of fun”
“It’s very addictive,” she said, because “we’re givers.”
Once a year, the dresses are displayed around the nave, where congregants pray over them before sending them to Little Dresses for Africa. The group also makes disposable sanitary pads for adolescent girls who, without the products, would be forced to quit school. And, they make breeches for little boys.
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