BY JAN SWOOPE
June sunlight spilling through the windows of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall found many hands and light hearts at work on a recent Saturday morning. Amid the muted hum of portable sewing machines and murmur of casual chat and easy laughter, volunteers cut armholes, ironed bias tape, pinned trim and stitched straps.
As the morning progressed, piles of donated pillowcases in a painter’s palette of colors and patterns were transformed into dresses for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
“Little Dresses for Africa” is a national Christian non-profit organization that has already distributed thousands of simple frocks to girls through orphanages, churches and schools in 39 African countries. When requested, dresses have also been sent to Haiti, as well as to remote villages in countries including Guatemala, Mexico and Cambodia.
At St. Paul’s in Columbus, the concept was a perfect fit for parishioner Jennet Lacey, an avid seamstress who coordinates the local “Little Dresses” effort. She gave credit to Pam Rhea — an ordained deacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi who serves at St. Paul’s — for finding the sewing project.
“Pam’s role as deacon is to carry the church out into the community, and she does such a good job of matching people with their talents,” praised Lacey, deftly guiding material through her sewing machine.
“I’m a firm believer in heart to hands,” continued the elementary school teacher. “This is a project that’s dear to my heart, and I’m so pleased with the response from St. Paul’s and from across the community.”
Indeed, volunteers cross denominational and gender lines. They come from different churches and backgrounds and range in age from 9 to well into their 80s.
“I love the generational aspect of it; everyone is welcome,” remarked Lacey.