East Toledo senior group stitching for a cause
They get together every Wednesday in a small room tucked away at the East Toledo Senior Activities Center.
The sewing group, led by Pauline Rosenbrook, is a testament to the adage, “Busy hands make a happy heart.” From the hallway, the sound of laughter rings through the room – the women are keeping each other in stitches as they busily cut, pin and sew the morning away.
Though they’ve worked on quilts and other projects in the past, this particular week, they’re working with a special purpose and satisfaction, transforming piles of colorful pillowcases and fabric pieces into darling little dresses that will make their way to needy young girls in Haiti.
The sewing project was inspired by group member Norma Dickson, who learned about a mission in Haiti called Project Hope through her daughter’s sister-in-law, Sue Valiton. The mission, started by Father Marc Bosivert, includes a school and community for Haitian children in Hope Village, located about 120 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince.
Valiton, formerly of Toledo, and now living in Minnesota, recently returned from Haiti and shared the plight of the Haitian children with Dickson on a recent visit to Toledo.
“These poor kids have nothing,” said Dickson, who is originally from Scotland. “Hearing about it, I wanted to do something to help. I know how to sew, so I suggested some kind of sewing project.
“We came up with the idea for these simple dresses made from pillowcases,” she said. “We found a pattern on the Internet. They’re easy to make and the simple design is perfect for kids.”
The women, including Rosenbrook, who lives in Oregon; Dickson; Ginny Gruetter, of Oregon; and Pat Boerst and Gwen Olic, both of Toledo, work diligently in an assembly line fashion, each taking a task of cutting, pinning, sewing and adorning the simple-but-adorable dresses with lace, ribbon and Ric Rac trim.
On this day, they’re joined by a young and familiar face – Rosenbrook’s grandson, Ryan, a Northwood Elementary School student who was on spring break.
“I babysat him since he was little, so he’s been here many times,” Pauline said.
“I’ve been coming since I was a kid,” he said. “You’re still a kid!” one of the ladies said.
“Ryan’s a good sewer – he has his own machine at my house,” Rosenbrook said.
So far, the group has completed about 60 dresses in different colors and sizes. “The more she makes, the fancier they get,” Gruetter said.
“All the pillowcases, fabric and trim have been donated,” Dickson said. “We’ve paid for nothing.”
“If we sew for an hour, we can usually get through about a half-dozen,” Dickson said, adding that she’s enlisted the help of a teen group at the East Toledo Family Center.
The goal is to make 100 dresses, which will be given to Valiton when she returns to the area in July. “When we get to 100, she’ll probably just keep going,” Gruetter said.