Lillian Weber is on a mission.
Every day she makes another dress for a small child she’ll never meet.
“I could probably make two a day, but I only make one,” she says.
The dresses are collected and sent overseas to little girls in Africa by a Christian outreach group called “Little Dresses for Africa”.
“I have to be busy,” says Lillian.
And she’s been very busy.
In the past two years she’s made more than 840 dresses and she plans to make 150 more by May 6th of next year.
You see, by next May, Lillian will turn 100 years old and it will be her one thousandth dress.
“It’s just one of those things you learn how to do and enjoy,” she says.
In Lillian’s Scott County farm house are completed dresses for little girls, made from a pattern, but each with extra stitching and individual details, designed to give each child a little extra pride.
“She personalizes them all,” says Lillian’s daughter, Linda Purcell. “It’s not like good enough that she makes the dresses, she has to put something on the front to make it look special, to give it her touch.”
What started as a hobby has become a daily labor of love.
Lillian says she starts work on a dress in the morning, takes a break during the midday, and puts finishing touches in the afternoon.
“I just think she’s somebody to look up to, somebody whose not just sitting around and frittering her life away,” says Tonya Urbatsch, who nominated Lillian for the “Pay It Forward” award.
“I’m amazed at her every day,” adds Linda. “I’m very, very proud of my mother.”
Family and friends will continue to be proud of Lillian, well after her 1000th dress. After all, 1000 is just a number.
“When I get to that thousand, if I’m able to. I won’t quit. I’ll go at it again because there’s no reason to not do nothing.”
When Lillian is finished with her dresses, her daughters deliver them to a Davenport senior living apartment complex where a group of residents have a weekly sewing appointment to make dresses for the charitable organization.
“Little Dresses for Africa” is a Christian charitable organization founded in 2008 in Michigan.
Its founder, Rachel O’Neill, says 2.5 million dresses have been distributed.
The simple dresses are distributed to orphanages, churches, and schools in Africa.
Rachel says she’s traveling to Africa again in September 2014 and February 2015 and hopes to be able to present to a child one of the dresses personally made by Lillian.
If you know someone doing good deeds for others, why not Pay It Forward? You can nominate someone by clicking on this link.
Dear Little Dresses, I am donating the enclosed eleven dresses in the name of my dear friend, Bonnie. Bonnie was killed in a pedestrian accident in November 2011. Shortly after her death, her husband Michael was kind enough to allow me to go through her workshop to search for the sewing and quilting projects I knew she was working on. I found many items and have since completed them and passed them on to the lucky persons they were designed for. Michael brought the remainder of her workshop to me during the Memorial Day weekend. I found this box in her stash. It contained the fabrics, notions, pockets and plans for the eleven dresses I have included in the package. I sewed the dresses and added a few buttons and some lace but these are all Bonnie’s designs. She planned the dresses and made the pockets and organized them in her usual superb manner. I have also included a donation in her name.
Judy in Virginia
Dear Rachel and Friends, The enclosed 42 dresses were made by Presbyterian Women in secveral church in the Cincinnatti area. They were made with love and prayers for the girls who will wear them. We also pray for your organization and volunteers. May God bles you all in the wonderful ministry to children around the world. Peace and Joy, Laura, Ohio
These dresses were made by teenage girls in a beginners sewing class at a correctional facility in Florida. Thanks for letting us help!
Dear Rachel, These two boxes contain 80 “little dresses” which I am pleased and privileged to make…I have been sewing, sewing, sewing! …I am trying to sew as much as I can while I am able to see waht I am doing, but I do not know how much longer that will be. I have had glaucoma for many years but until recently have been able to keep it “at bay” by the grace of God and the skill of my ophthamologis…In a recent sermon, my Pastor talked about the joy in finding one’s “sweet spot. To do that you need to ask yourself 3 questions: 1. What am I able to do? 2. What do I LIKE to do? 3. Where is there a need? When these 3 intersect that’s your sweet sot. Making these dresses has truly been a “sweet spot” in my life. I say a prayer with each dress that the child wearing it will sense God’s love and care. Thank you again for what you and your organization do to share God’s love.
Rachel, I heard about LDFA from a lady in Walmart who was at the pattern depart shopping when I was browsing. She asked if I was looking for a pattern and she began to tell me that she was making little dresses for the girls in Africa. I immediately went home, went online and found you. What a wonderful work you are doing. May God continue to bless you for your willingness to help the helpless. It was so nice talking with you today. Thank God for you.
Thank you Evonne, Florida
I have been unemployed for a while but since I have time I wanted to learn something new and still be able to contribute in some way to the world. I saw a Nancy’s Notion’s catalog that had the pattern and some material for the Little Girls of Africa and I decided this was a good way for me to start. I am enclosing some dresses from my first ever sewing experience and while I know they aren’t perfect or fancy, I think they can still be used for the children. I should only get better and now I have some donated fabric so I’ll be able to do more. .. I really appreciate what you’re doing for these girls. The story is very moving and I hope I can help in some way…
Dear Rachel, Please accept this gift of little dresses to be placed with the children who need them. Our small group of ladies had so much fun crafting them. We have a big-hearted community who donated fabric to keep us sewing. This is our first delivery with more to come. We are keeping your staff, your volunteers and you in our prayers. Thanks for creating this program that blesses sweet children who can have our hugs as they wear these dresses passed through our hands with love. Thank you for all that you do. Love, Barbara, Texas
The dresses in this box are a product of a very long, cold winter in Wisconsin. I had learned about your organization on an episode of Sewing with Nancy and thought it sounded like a great cause. I’m no seamstress but have been quilting since 1990, so I have a very healthy stash of fabric that could well afford to be thinned a little. With an occasional trip to JoAnn Fabrics between blizzards for more elastic and bias tape, I was in business!
Mary, Belleville, WI
My 95 year old mother heard about this project so she made thse pillow case dresses. Then she didn’t know where to send them so I found your website and sending them for her. She also is enclosing a check for shipping costs. Thank you in advance. Blessings, Jean for Marilyn
Dear Little Dresses for Africa, We made these dresses as part of a community service project in which we had to “change the world”. Using your mission, we hope to change the world, one little dress at a time. Love, Kate and Ellie
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