By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (January 3, 2012) – “Pillowcase dresses” sewn by women in the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church could mean the difference between whether or not an impoverished girl in another country is kidnapped to become a slave.
The nice-looking dresses give the impression of stability in the girls’ lives, says Renee Shepherd, who chairs the Compassion, Mercy, and Justice outreach initiative of the Central Conference Women Ministries (CCWM). “People snatch kids who look unkempt or uncared for,” she says.
Shepherd coordinated the project and stresses its importance. “We’re not just making a dresses, we’re making dresses to save a life.”
The CCWM designated sewing the pillowcase dresses as its project for 2011. The goal was to sew 500 pieces of clothing. That goal was far surpassed as women brought a total of 962 dresses to two retreats in the fall.
“It just took on a life of its own,” says Bonnie Stephens of Northbrook Covenant Church. She sewed 101 dresses. Another member, Mary Dornfeld, sewed 124.
Stephens and some of the other women made dresses from different fabrics. Stephens put out a request for fabric on several knitting websites to which she belongs. Women from six states responded.
People donating the dresses also are asked to make a financial donation to pay for shipping. A pianist and organist at Covenant Village put on a concert to raise funds for the project.
Sewing the dresses is a project that brings together people of all ages. At one gathering of sewers at Northbrook, participants spanning four generations worked alongside one another, says Stephens.
The project inspired women at the retreats. “They saw what can be done when we work collectively,” says Shepherd. “It has galvanized the women so that I’m getting constant email from women who want to participate.”
Even though it won’t be the organization’s 2012 project, the CCWM plans to collect dresses during its retreats this year as well, Shepherd says. The dresses are being distributed through the Department of World Mission and the organization Little Dresses for Africa.
It is not only women in the Central Conference who are sewing dresses. An increasing number of Covenant churches around the country have been initiating their own sewing groups for an ongoing ministry or specific projects. Like the Central Conference women, many are working with Little Dresses for Africa. Others are working through Dress a Girl Around the World.
The websites for the different organizations contain patterns for making the dresses. Videos also can be found in multiple places online.