(March 1, 2013) Stephen Decatur High School’s Connections Club is collecting pillowcases and other supplies needed to make dresses for children in the Dominican Republic and East Timor in Southeast Asia.
In August 2011, volunteer leader Barbara Entwistle worked with her Girl Scout troop to sew dresses out of pillowcases for children in Africa. With help from a few others, the group was able to make approximately 70 dresses in about one month. In September of that year, Entwistle sent the dresses to Rachel Alexander O’Neill, founder of Little Dresses for Africa, a nonprofit Christian organization that distributes the dresses throughout many parts of Africa.
Entwistle then began holding sewing parties at her Libertytown home, at local libraries and meetings of Girl Scouts and church groups. They put together a kit that included the dress pattern and everything needed to create the outfit, and sent it to a group of five women on Smith Island. They went on to make 113 dresses in just two months.
And now, students at Stephen Decatur High School are getting involved.
“I was a little hesitant until I saw the final product myself and the pictures. It is amazing,” said Laurie Chetelat, Connections Club advisor. “When I introduced it to our group, they became very excited to be involved in a new project that we had never done before. I showed them some of the pictures Barbara had sent me of the children in poverty and it shocked my students to see the conditions these children had to live in.”
Connections is a student volunteer organization at Decatur created by two students, Caroline Andes and Joe Chen, about 10 years ago to “’connect’ student volunteers to meet the needs of our community,” Chetelat said.
“We had a large number of students who wanted to volunteer, but did not know where to go or who to talk to. At the same time, community groups were actively looking for volunteers,” she said. “Our goal was, and continues to be, a mechanism to pull the needs of both the community and of our students together.”
The Connections Club is collecting the following items: new or used pillowcases, half-inch wide elastic (available at WalMart), extra wide double fold bias tape (available at WalMart) and thread. The group is also asking for donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, combs, shampoo and quart-size Ziploc bags.
Items can be dropped off at Stephen Decatur High School’s main office, located on Route 50 in Berlin, through March 20.
Entwistle and others continue to meet and sew dresses. The ladies will meet from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, March 23, at St. Peters Lutheran Church on 103rd Street. New dressmakers are always welcome. Participants are asked to take a portable sewing machine, if possible, new or used pillowcases, half-inch wide elastic and extra wide double fold bias tape.
Members of the 30-person group also sew at home. Some seamstresses are members of Salem United Methodist Church in Pocomoke, Christ United Methodist Church in Salisbury and Tylerton United Methodist Church on Smith Island.
Dresses have also been made by Delmarvalous Quilters, Happy Time Quilters, Girls Scouts, 4H Club members and detainees at the Wicomico County Youth Detention Center.
Dressmakers meet for lunch every other month and they display completed outfits.
“Pretty soon we’ll hit our 1,000th dress mark. Very exciting,” Entwistle said.
In May, Melanie Perdue Metzger, a registered nurse who lives in Berlin, will travel to the Dominican Republic and take dresses and supplies with her. Entwistle said she hopes to send 300 dresses with Metzger.
Each month, Entwistle also mails 24 dresses to East Timor.
In January, 101 dresses were taken to Haiti.
For additional information, call the high school at 410-641-2171 or e-mail Chetelat at Connections_sdhs@hotmail.com.