Common threads

Shepherd of the Valley resident continues friend’s ministry, sewing for children

Staff report


At 83 years old, Harlene Huffstetler is comforting children all over the world with her sewing machine.

Huffstetler is an assisted-living resident at Shepherd of the Valley Niles. Staff helped her set up a sewing room so she could minister to children in need.

She was born and raised in Warren and is a member of Emmanual Lutheran Church. Since retiring from the baking industry, she has been sewing. Her friend Lucille Bickle would make dresses for children through the San Felix Mission in Panama. Due to arthritis, Bickle was unable to continue making the dresses. That is when Huffstetler stepped in and continued her ministry. Huffstetler and her friends have been making pillowcase dresses to send overseas.

Each dress takes approximately 1 to 11/4 yards of fabric. She usually gets her materials from church members and garage sales. She adds details such as pockets and ruffles when she has the materials needed.

In addition to making dresses, Huffstetler also makes teddy bears for local police departments. The bears are intended for children exposed to traumatic situations. She has made more than 40 teddy bears.

Huffstetler is proud of the work she does. “Just because I am old doesn’t mean my mind is dead,” she says. She also says making the dresses and bears makes her feel as though she’s accomplished something, even though she never meets the recipients of her handiwork.

Shepherd of the Valley is hosting a fabric and notions drive through Aug. 31 to help support Huffstetler. Items needed include fabric (specifically cotton for dresses), bias tape, ribbon and ric rac trim, white thread, Schmetz universal sewing machine needles and hangers. Donations can be dropped off at any Shepherd of the Valley community between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

For information, contact Danielle Procopio at 330-530-4038, ext. 2057.

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