By Linda Elissalde
What in the world are pillow case dresses? The obvious answer is dresses made out of pillow cases. However, some unique dresses are far more than that. They serve as ambassadors to plant in the hearts of little girls the belief that they are worthy. Rachel O’Neill and her husband Michael went to Uganda and Kenya to celebrate her 50th birthday. They fell in love with Africa. Then on a trip to Malawi, “the warm heart of Africa,” a dream was born. The O’Neills saw the plight of young girls and women and decided that their mission was to provide something tangible to honor them in some way. This dream became The Little Dresses For Africa (LDFA), a non-profit organization. Along with dresses, encouragement and school supplies Little Britches For Boys was added. Now LDFA has grown to well over 4.5 million with dresses and britches currently being sent to 81 countries in and around Africa.
So, what’s with the pillow cases? Pillow cases can be used to make dresses. Even those who can’t sew a fine seam can follow the simple patterns for these designs. Pillow cases are only a suggestion. Pieces of material can be used as well. The Bay Vue United Methodist Women (UMW) under the leadership of Janet Leigh Davis decided that this was a project for them. New President Mary Raney continued with the plan, and on January 31, 2017, these ladies started sewing.
A visitor to Fellowship Hall would have thought they had entered a workshop. Women brought their own sewing machines. Several were busy using patterns to cut dresses from the mountains of material supplied by Paula Isenblatter. Some ladies formed teams while others worked alone, but all were deeply engaged in their creations. Carmen Schulz sewed 14 dresses by herself at home. These are not one size fits all dresses. They come in multiple sizes for multiple shapes.
Watching these fine women at work was exhilarating. Not only were they working, but they were laughing and having fun while completing a worthy endeavor. Jane Loose quoted founder Rachel O’Neill. “We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending HOPE!” Of course, you could also say,” These woman are SEWING HOPE!”