Little dresses made with lots of love
Published: Friday, March 25, 2011

By Catherine Sager
WEST SAND LAKE — Trinity Lutheran Church holds a sewing circle with a mission.

Evah Beck is the local co-coordinator of the Little Dresses for Africa sewing circle. She says that she learned about the project from a woman who kept coming in and asking for pillow cases. “I asked her why she needed so many pillow cases and what was she doing with them.”

Evah learned that out of pillow cases the Little Dresses organization was making colorful, dresses for little girls in Africa. “She showed me a sample and when I brought one to church, everyone got so excited and it just snowballed from there.”

Janet Oliver, a member of the sewing collective, says the newly formed group meets once a month and always welcomes newcomers who want to help with the project. They did a little advertising, but the message spread from church groups to quilting guilds and neighbors through word of mouth. Material is donated from church members and other individuals from community. Each dress uses just a yard of fabric and two yards of seam binding. The simple pattern can be reproduced very easily and with just a little bit of coaching, for volunteers, the number of completed dresses is quickly adding up.

At their very first meeting 24 women came together, they set up sewing machines, ironing boards, unloaded pin cushions, tape measures, desk lamps, and set to work. By the end of their second meeting they have more than 60 dresses ready to mail. Dresses are grouped by size and mailed to

Rachel O’Neil, Little Dresses for Africa’s national organizer.

“[Rachel] has a huge group of volunteers,” Janet said, “and she actually got someone to donate a large rental space to store all of the dresses, because she gets thousands every month.”

Cora Hoffay is 87 years old and has been a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church in West Sand Lake, since she was baptized at 20 years old. As a community volunteer, Hoffay served a Sunday school teacher and worked with youth groups. As a 4H leader and taught girls how to sew after school.

Many years later, three women who learned to sew from Hoffay, join her to create pillow case dresses for the poorest of Africa’s children. Peggy, Grechen and Janet, or the Oliver sisters, as they are known, donate their time and considerable talent, along with a growing group of volunteers from the Trinity Church congregation and beyond.

A pair of newcomers joined the mission on Saturday. “We always wanted to volunteer,” said Celinda Dacier. “When I read about this project, I asked my daughter if she’d like to come and she said ‘sure.’ This seemed like a good way to do something for someone else.” Little Dresses for Africa (LDFA) is a non-profit 501c3, Christian based organization which provides relief to the children of Africa. Simple dresses are made out of pillow cases and distributed through the orphanages, churches and schools in Africa.

On her website, the organizer of the project, Rachel O’Neil of Brownstown, Michigan writes “Who is making a difference? Simply stated… you are! We have found that most people want to help others less fortunate than themselves. This is a project that links communities by allowing people the opportunity to get involved at whatever level works for them. Everyone can participate! You can donate pillow cases or material, sewing supplies, elastic or double bias tape. One of our major needs is the vacuum space bags that we can pack the dresses in for shipping. We need the small and medium sizes for easy distribution. You can donate financially to the sewing projects or to the short term mission trips where these items are distributed. You can find a group near you where people are meeting to help iron, size and organize the packaging of the little dresses. There is something for everyone.”

To date, LDFA has received more than 120,000 little dresses (and also britches for boys) from all 50 states of the U.S., as well as Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Canada.

At its next meeting on April 16, the group will gather to produce “Britches for Boys.” To join the group, contact Evah Beck at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Route 150 at 674-5501.

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By Catherine Sager

WEST SAND LAKE — Trinity Lutheran Church holds a sewing circle with a mission.

Evah Beck is the local co-coordinator of the Little Dresses for Africa sewing circle. She says that she learned about the project from a woman who kept coming in and asking for pillow cases. “I asked her why she needed so many pillow cases and what was she doing with them.”

Evah learned that out of pillow cases the Little Dresses organization was making colorful, dresses for little girls in Africa. “She showed me a sample and when I brought one to church, everyone got so excited and it just snowballed from there.”

Janet Oliver, a member of the sewing collective, says the newly formed group meets once a month and always welcomes newcomers who want to help with the project. They did a little advertising, but the message spread from church groups to quilting guilds and neighbors through word of mouth. Material is donated from church members and other individuals from community. Each dress uses just a yard of fabric and two yards of seam binding. The simple pattern can be reproduced very easily and with just a little bit of coaching, for volunteers, the number of completed dresses is quickly adding up.

At their very first meeting 24 women came together, they set up sewing machines, ironing boards, unloaded pin cushions, tape measures, desk lamps, and set to work. By the end of their second meeting they have more than 60 dresses ready to mail. Dresses are grouped by size and mailed to

Rachel O’Neil, Little Dresses for Africa’s national organizer.

“[Rachel] has a huge group of volunteers,” Janet said, “and she actually got someone to donate a large rental space to store all of the dresses, because she gets thousands every month.”

Cora Hoffay is 87 years old and has been a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church in West Sand Lake, since she was baptized at 20 years old. As a community volunteer, Hoffay served a Sunday school teacher and worked with youth groups. As a 4H leader and taught girls how to sew after school.

Many years later, three women who learned to sew from Hoffay, join her to create pillow case dresses for the poorest of Africa’s children. Peggy, Grechen and Janet, or the Oliver sisters, as they are known, donate their time and considerable talent, along with a growing group of volunteers from the Trinity Church congregation and beyond.

A pair of newcomers joined the mission on Saturday. “We always wanted to volunteer,” said Celinda Dacier. “When I read about this project, I asked my daughter if she’d like to come and she said ‘sure.’ This seemed like a good way to do something for someone else.”

Her daughter, Juliette Dacier is 19 years old. She says “I just like helping other people. I feel like each of us can to something to help others. If you live in this world you should just care about everybody, and do your best.”

Little Dresses for Africa (LDFA) is a non-profit 501c3, Christian based organization which provides relief to the children of Africa. Simple dresses are made out of pillow cases and distributed through the orphanages, churches and schools in Africa.

On her website, the organizer of the project, Rachel O’Neil of Brownstown, Michigan writes “Who is making a difference? Simply stated… you are! We have found that most people want to help others less fortunate than themselves. This is a project that links communities by allowing people the opportunity to get involved at whatever level works for them. Everyone can participate! You can donate pillow cases or material, sewing supplies, elastic or double bias tape. One of our major needs is the vacuum space bags that we can pack the dresses in for shipping. We need the small and medium sizes for easy distribution. You can donate financially to the sewing projects or to the short term mission trips where these items are distributed. You can find a group near you where people are meeting to help iron, size and organize the packaging of the little dresses. There is something for everyone.”

To date, LDFA has received more than 120,000 little dresses (and also britches for boys) from all 50 states of the U.S., as well as Australia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Canada.

At its next meeting on April 16, the group will gather to produce “Britches for Boys.” To join the group, contact Evah Beck at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Route 150 at 674-5501.

For more information visit http://www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/

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