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‘Mission stitchers’ ship dresses to girls in underdeveloped countries

By Staff | Apr 6, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Mission sewers at First UM Church in Muncy are: (back row left to right) Cindy Campbell, Becky Hutchinson, Arlene Beechert, Gail Pentz and Nancy Grove. Front row (left to right): Nicole Wilcox, Judy Fausey, Carol Godfrey and Carolyn Johnson.

MUNCY – “Imagine a world where every girl owned at least one dress.” This mission statement appears on the website ‘Dress A Girl Around the World’ and that is what one group of women who meet every month in Muncy hope to accomplish.

The inspiration came to a Montoursville woman and a member of the First United Methodist Church in Muncy where they meet. Nancy Grove said she wanted to establish a faith based mission that would involve sewing. She came across the “Dressing Girls Around the World” program and saw an opportunity at her church, which recently expanded, to meet on a Saturday morning once a month. They first met on January 16th and have been meeting since on the third Saturday of every month.

“We are always looking for others to come sew with us,” said Grove. “We call ourselves the mission stitchers.” For many girls, it will be the only dress they will ever own.

Fabric, trims, and accessories have all been donated and all that is required is to bring your sewing machine according to Grove. There are guidelines, however to making the dresses. The patterns is provided along with size charts, and fabric must be 100 percent cotton, and not too light. All seams are finished and there are no remaining raw edges.

When the program first began in October of 2009 by a woman residing in Arizona, the dresses were made from pillowcases. A year later they were sent to Uganda and by the following month most of the girls there were wearing the pillowcase dresses. Soon dedicated volunteers from all over the world were making these dresses. To date over 300,000 dresses have been delivered to 81 countries.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Nancy Grove from the First United Methodist Church in Muncy has put together kits to make a dress for the "Dress A Girl Around the World" program held the third Saturday morning of every month at the church. To pick up a kit and make a dress, call the church office at 570-546-8030.

The dresses now have official labels that need to be sewn on the front to prevent human trafficking so a special designed label is sewn onto the front pocket.

“This is a great way to give back,” said Cindy Campbell who is among the sewing group.

The program is part of Hope 4 Women International, an organization that has been empowering women since 2006 through charitable and educational purposes.

So far the “Muncy mission stitchers” have made 28 dresses. Jeanne Willis from Hughesville sent them to an orphanage in Rwanda related Grove. They were all sizes from 2 to14. “We heard about the orphanage from one of our members, Betty Jo Soohey who also sews with the group. Many of the dresses made were colorful with some adapted originality from the basic sleeveless dress pattern that requires hardly any cutting or design. The pillowcases are no longer used.

The stitchers first met on January 10 during the church’s open house. Four of the members were working and demonstrating this activity and by February enough dresses were made to ship out. “This is a nice way to reach out and touch other people in simple ways,” added Grove.

Grove who said she has been sewing most of her life facilitated the program as a means to provide an opportunity to meet and sew. “This is a perfect hands-on mission to show people in action.”

Arlene Beechert, pastor of the church said, “This is a new mission project for us and we have been dreaming about it for awhile. The new construction allowed for more space.”

The women have met for 3 months now and they said they keep growing and want more to come and celebrate their new mission. “This celebrates our mission statement which is life together in Jesus Christ growing deeper and reaching wider,” Pastor Beechert replied.

If not available to come and sew, kits are available. Beechert said to call the church office at 570-546-8030 if you would like to sew a dress.

Their next meet will be Saturday, April 16 from 9 to noon at the Muncy Methodist Church on Market Street.