Local group makes dresses, shorts for children in need

(May 15, 2015) Barbara Entwistle has been designing dresses out of pillowcases for children in third world countries for almost four years and recently added shorts for boys made from recycled T-shirts to the project.

To date, she and others have made and delivered 1,499 dresses to children in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, East Timor, Mexico, Israel and the Gambia in West Africa, a new location the group will be distributing dresses and shorts to regularly.

“The first box we sent out in April and this Friday we will send another box,” Entwistle said. “It takes about a month for them to receive and it costs $40 to ship every box.”

A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) in the Gambia, Maggie Savage, passed out dresses and shorts to the children for the first time late last week.

“‘As you can see they were much loved and much needed! I welcome all the more that you can send our way,’” Savage said, via an email sent back to the group. “‘The kindness you have shown has been noticed and welcomed! Thank you for putting a smile on so many children’s faces.’”

Melanie Metzger, a registered nurse and missionary, is established in the Dominican Republic and enables the group to send clothing to children in need sooner. 

During Metzger’s last trip home to the United States–she previously lived in Berlin–she voiced how women need kitchen supplies especially pot holders since most of their cooking takes place outside over an open fire.

The group of 40 people went to work and put together 35 kitchen kits complete with soap and Ziploc baggies, which are luxuries in the Dominican, Entwistle said.

A school teacher from Pennsylvania, Jodi Kirman, picked up 140 dresses, 75 pairs of shorts and boxes of other items in January, which will be distributed in Haiti sometime this month. She has now distributed 375 dresses to girls in Haiti.

In addition, Kids Connection at Stephen Decatur High School had a T-shirt drive in the fall where they donated 500 T-shirts to Entwistle and her group to make shorts for underprivileged boys.

Entwistle said they have delivered 300 pairs of shorts, made from the donated recycled T-shirts, to other countries so far.

Her group grows each meeting with members introducing new people and existing participants continuing to make dresses and stay involved.

“We will get together in the next couple of months, bring in what we are working on and find new ideas from each other,” Entwistle said.

At one of her recent events, a man sent his mother to find out more information about the group who makes clothing for children. His friend runs a school in Bali for children up to sixth grade and would love to have some boxes to take back with him in December after he returns home for the holidays, she said.

Entwistle told him to get a list together and boxes will be compiled with items such as clothing, school supplies, soap, Band-Aids and everything else they need.

She holds sewing parties at her house, in local libraries, at Girl Scout meetings and in church groups. Entwistle counts the dresses when they are packed into boxes. She has a running list of how many were made, where they went and when the girls received them.

“I don’t think I will ever stop making dresses. Once you get started, it only takes about 20 minutes to finish. It is worthwhile, satisfying and needs to be done,” she said.

Groups who have participated in this cause throughout the years include Girl Scouts, Smith Island residents, home schooled children, Wicomico County 4H Club and the Wicomico County detention center.

The idea first came about when Entwistle was researching service projects with her local Girl Scout troop and she discovered Rachel O’Neill, founder of Little Dresses for Africa, a non-profit Christian organization established in 2007 that distributes dresses made of pillowcases throughout many parts of Africa.

The project has grown tremendously throughout the almost four years in operation and will continue to be a resource for underprivileged children in third world countries. Those who are interested in making pillowcase dresses for this group or donating supplies may contact Entwistle at 443-944-5868 or email bentwistle@clarionoc.com.

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