INDIANAPOLIS – It was just before Christmas when NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams introduced the story of a Trenton, Michigan woman whose dream safari vacation in Africa gave her another dream. “When you look in these little girls eyes you could see it you can see that they know they have a long way ahead,” said Rachel O’Neil, who has traveled from rural Uganda to Malawi. Her heart was touched by what she saw and she penned her hope in a journal. “I’d like to see if a woman’s group would like to sew little dresses all year long to bring back next year. Their little clothes are so torn and so filthy,” she wrote. She thought 1,000 dresses could help. Volunteers made six of them. Then word spread and boxes of dresses began showing up on her doorstep from Montana to Maine down to Mississippi, and now from central Indiana.
“I thought, I can do that. It just touched my heart and those smiles,” says Audie Hall of Indianapolis. Hall saw the report on Nightly News and decided she wanted to help the program called “Little Dresses for Africa.” “Once you read about it on the website you’re hooked. You’re hooked,” said Hall. The retired teacher took a page from her past to decide how many dresses she would sew. “There was a book that I would read my kids called 100 dresses and that’s what I did. I just thought I would make a 100 dresses,” Hall says. The colors and styles are eclectic and embellished. And some of the dresses are made using pillow cases. “You just cut off one end and cut a template for the arm holes and put the bias tape there. The hems already in it from the bias tape and then any decoration you want.” Hall says you don’t have to be an expert seamstress. All you need is a desire to help. “What if everybody made two dresses? There would be more dresses than little kids in Africa who needed them,” she said. Her one-of-a-kind creations are ready to be shipped to Michigan to join more than 100,000 dresses made by volunteers who also sort, iron and pack them to be shipped. “And then they will either mail them to a city in Africa or find a missionary group over to take them,” she explained. A Michigan woman’s call for help is answered by a retired Indianapolis teacher. “It just is just pretty darn amazing to think that something made in Indianapolis, Indiana is going to go over there and probably the next person touching it is the little girl who’s putting it on. It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Hall. Now she’s ready to sew some more seeds to touch even more lives. “I’m gonna stop on the dresses now and I think little boys need shorts,” she said