By LINDA M. LINONIS
For the Little Dresses for Haiti project, Avis Mathews is recruiting participants with nimble fingers, a flair for style and giving hearts.
Mathews conducted a recent meeting at Corner House Christian Church for those interested in making dresses for girls in Haiti.
About 20 women from various denominations of Mahoning Valley churches attended. Mathews also heard from others who plan to make dresses in church sewing circles.
Mathews, a 54-year-member of Corner House Christian, said: “We’re the physical hands and feet and voice of our Lord. It’s up to us to do His work on Earth.”
That’s why she’s recruiting interested people to make the simple yet stylish sundresses bound for Haiti and its poverty-stricken residents. Mathews is available to speak about the project. Call her at 330-534-7629 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mathews said Corner House Christian will serve as a site for Valley seamstresses to bring dresses; the first collection will be at 1 p.m. March 5. She said the church is working with Lifeline Christian Mission (www.lifeline.org) in Westerville, Ohio. Lifeline has a facility in Haiti, and it will ship the dresses in cargo containers that it sends with supplies about four times annually.
The Rev. David Coxson, pastor of Corner House Christian Church, presented a slide show and commentary of one of his three mission trips to Haiti with Lifeline. He was there in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The Rev. Mr. Coxson noted Haiti is the “poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.”
“You’ll never be the same after a trip there,” he said, referring to the poverty and living conditions.
Mr. Coxson said Bob and Gretchen DeVoe of Columbus founded Lifeline in 1980; it now operates food, clothing, health care and school ministries in Canada, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras and the Navajo nation.
Mr. Coxson said families of a mother, grandmother and sometimes eight or more children live in two- to three-room concrete block houses with tin roofs. “It’s a hard life,” he said. He noted families have few material goods because of very limited finances.
Mathews said the sundresses fill a clothing need. She wanted to work with Lifeline because it was established in Haiti. Lifeline could provide feedback that the dresses actually reached the children for whom they were intended, she said.
As for the dresses, Mathews said patterns for sizes 2, 4, 6 and 8 are available.
She told fellow church members, friends and neighbors about the project, and they in turn have told others. “I find bags of material and trim on my porch,” she said, noting people give because they know it’s going to a good cause.
Mathews said material, trim and ribbon used for the sundresses should be washable. She said pillowcases also can be cut and converted into the dresses. The dresses tie at the shoulders.
Ruth Rock, a member of St. Patrick Church, is in an exercise class with Mathews at Hubbard Community Pool. Rock has made 30 dresses destined to put smiles on the faces of young recipients. “It got me through winter,” she said, noting it kept her occupied after the death of her husband. “It’s a joy to do. You’re doing something for someone else, and it’s very rewarding.”
Edna White of Tabernacle Baptist Church and Stella Pittman of Jerusalem Baptist Church, both of Youngstown, sew at the “sewing lab” at First Presbyterian Church in Youngstown.
White puts pockets on the dresses and fills them with small stuffed animals. “I know children like that,” she said.
Pittman heard about the project on a TV sewing show. “It gives you a good feeling to help someone else,” she said.