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CURRENT ISSUE:  March 5, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 5   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
FACE, families partner
to help educate children

 
Messages of hope, healing
follow attack on church

 
Lenten tradition
Saving girls,
one handmade dress at a time
 

Volunteers bring sewing machines to a dressmaking session
at St. Augustine Hall in Pleasanton.
MICHELE JURICH PHOTOS

Dress A Girl Around the World can be the answer to a prayer.

The organization provides simple dresses to girls in the Third World. The girls, clad in are dresses made by volunteers, appear to be well cared for and less likely to be targeted by predators.

The dresses were the answer to Suzanne Slupesky's prayer, too.

As her life was changing, Slupesky prayed. After her divorce, she had moved to a new home, and a new parish. She was, in her words, "redoing my life." She had been on the pastoral council and was a cantor in her previous parish. "I need a ministry," she prayed.

She added: "It would be really cool if it could be creative."

A week later, she learned about Dress A Girl Around the World. The simple dress, made out of a pillowcase, is a project of Hope 4 Women International, which has delivered more than 60,000 dresses to girls in 56 countries.

Volunteer groups of women meet to sew and pack the dresses, which are hand-delivered.

The project appealed to longtime crafter Slupesky, who manages a craft store, and had once owned a scrapbooking store.

She put together her first event in May 2011, where 50 dresses were completed.

Next Sew Fest

9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 19

St. Augustine Hall, 3999 Bernal Ave., Pleasanton.

Bring sewing machines, irons, ironing boards and sewing supplies, if you have them. Information: suzbeck@yahoo.com.

Upcoming Sew Fests

March 19: St. Augustine Hall, Pleasanton

May 19: St Michael's Hall, Livermore

June 23: St. Michael's Hall, Livermore

July 21:St. Michael's Hall, Livermore

Aug. 25:St. Michael'sHall, Livermore

Sept. 22:St. Michael's Hall, Livermore

Oct. 20: St. Michael's Hall, Livermore

Nov. 17: St. Michael's Hall, Livermore
 
 
In January at St. Michael Hall in Livermore, more than 300 dresses were completed by more than 40 volunteers, working on 20 sewing machines.

Not all were made in the session, Slupesky said. Some sewers pick up a kit, take it home and make it, return it and pick up more kits.

Slupesky and her crew prepare kits, which include a regular pillowcase. The top seam is cut off, and, using a template, the kit-makers cut out the armholes. A casing for elastic is ironed down. The kit includes seam binding for the arm holes, which will also become ties at the shoulder. Fabric for a color-coordinated pocket and elastic rounds out the kit. The dresses resemble sundresses, and are sometimes worn over T-shirts.

The makers are invited to add their own embellishments, a little lace here or button there.

An experienced seamstress can turn out a dress in about a half-hour, Slupesky said.

Some groups make what they call T-shirt dresses for girls in countries where additional modesty is important. The dressmakers add a fabric skirt to a white T-shirt.

The dressmakers' ministry depends on donations of pillowcases, fabric and embellishments. They can use donations of as little as a half-yard of dress-quality cotton fabric.

The Sew Fests, even on a weekday, are lively gatherings. More than a dozen volunteers sat at sewing machines or ironed finished dresses during the morning session on Feb. 21 at St. Augustine Hall in Pleasanton.

Among the newcomers was Sherri Kennedy, who learned about the event from a fellow member of the Community Bible Study in Pleasanton. Her daughter is a member of Girl Scout Troop 30274, and Kennedy sees the dress project as one the fifth-grade Scouts can adopt. Along the way, the girls will earn their sewing badges, and participate in a yearlong Bronze Award service project, she said.

Kirstin Litz saw one of the dresses in a salon, where Dress A Girl volunteers hang samples in hopes of bringing in new volunteers. "I can do that," she said. Describing herself as an "Auntie, can you make me ?" seamstress, Litz worked on an intricate flowered pocket, dotted with a button, on a pink dress. She works for Franklin Templeton Investments and was using the "civic day" granted employees to make dresses on a Tuesday.
Suzanne Slupesky stands in front of dresses made for
girls who live in troubled places.

"The spirit brings all these beautiful women together," said Debbie Fletcher, who was among the four founders of the group. Terry De Young read about Dress A Girl in the St. Michael's Church bulletin in August. She learned that one of the group's biggest costs was seam binding, which creates the straps on the sundresses. She bought a machine that makes the binding, and spends days each month cutting fabric and turning it into neat packages of colorful binding for the kits.

The next Sew Fest is scheduled for March 19 at the parish hall of St. Augustine Church of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton. Volunteers are invited to bring sewing machines, irons, ironing boards and sewing supplies.

Slupesky said she would welcome opportunities to assist other parishes in setting up Dress A Girl ministries. Contact her at suzbeck@yahoo.com.

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