With Love from Childersburg

Little dresses for Africa, with love, from Childersburg
Mar 15, 2011

Nancy Strickland didn’t even know how to sew, but that didn’t matter. Once she saw the television segment about making dresses for little girls in Africa, she made her mind up to learn.And she has.The organization, Little Dresses for Africa, formed in 2007 and is a nonprofit, founded by a woman named Rachel O’Neill, who lives in Michigan.

When Strickland saw a news program featuring the effort to send dresses to little girls in Africa, she was in.Now, just a few months later, with help from the members of her church, Grace Baptist Church in Childersburg, and others, there are 120 little dresses ready to send to little girls in Africa.“I thought it was just such a wonderful thing,” Strickland said. She got to work on a business plan for the project, sent her husband to buy a sewing machine she saw was on sale, and now, the project is in full swing.
“When I started working on this, my husband looked at me and asked if I had forgotten that I didn’t know how to sew,” Strickland said. When her husband, Joey, got home with the sewing machine, Strickland said the two of them just left it in the box for about a week. “I thought I would just pray about it and figure it all out,” she said. “We finally realized we had to open that box and learn. We figured it out together.”

Those helping with Little Dresses for Africa get together for sew-a-thons, and work in an assembly line set up to get the work done, Strickland said. Not everyone has to sew there are plenty of jobs within the effort that don’t require actual sewing. Some may cut out patterns, some iron, others help package the dresses to ship to the organization’s headquarters where they are then sent to Africa and are distributed to the girls through orphanages, churches and schools. Getting started, Strickland recruited her sister-in-law, Stacey Hall, and church member Holly Roberts, who both knew how to sew, to get things going.The Little Dresses for Africa organization supplies patterns for making the dresses from pillowcases, but accepts donations of dresses made from regular fabric as well.

Each dress is so different, Strickland said, because each volunteer making them puts his or her own personal touch into them. “It really is amazing,” Strickland said. I can tell a story about every one of them. Every little dress has its own personality. And there is so much love in them,” she said. During next Sunday’s worship service, church members will hold a special service before sending the dresses on their way. The dresses will be displayed on the altar during the service. The project has involved about 50 volunteers, Strickland said, and has spread to other churches as well. That’s a big part of her wish in organizing the effort, Strickland said, helping to spread the word about the dresses to others who can help. Members of Marble City Baptist Church in Sylacauga have held two sew-a-thons and members of Hepzibah Baptist Church have also been involved. A neighbor, Kevin Sargent, helped Strickland make a DVD about the dress effort, in order to have a way of showing others how to get their own Little Dresses for Africa project started. Strickland has documented the project from start to finish, and there’s a bulletin board at the church showing the effort in progress. The group will have a display of their work during CoosaFest May 14 and will also accept donations for the project during the event.

Supplying the dresses is the crux of the project, but Strickland said there’s been another aspect that makes it all even more exciting. “This has turned into what is probably the most important work in my Christian walk,” she said. “I am amazed at the outpouring of support and how it has brought people together.” The project has bridged all age groups and been the source of building new friendships, Strickland said. “We were going to church together, but some of us weren’t really interacting,” she said. “We didn’t seem to have a reason to interact and now we do.” At the sew-a-thons, some bring food along to share and others may bring donations of materials for dresse but do not take part in the actual sewing. Now, she said, the different age groups at the church are working together, she said. “This has opened up a whole new highway of communication,” Strickland said. “

Those who are interested in forming a Little Dresses for Africa group or who would like to work with the group at Grace Baptist Church may contact Strickland at sewlovedministry@gmail.com.

Read more: The Daily Home – Little dresses for Africa with love from Childersburg

M o r e   i n f o