Members of a local church’s quilting group are continuing their annual Lenten tradition of serving others by sewing dresses for girls around the world.
Although the handcrafted dresses will soon head to girls in 82 different countries, many of the outfits are on display now through Easter Sunday, April 16, inside the Washougal United Methodist Church sanctuary at 4020 “M” St., Washougal.
Cleta Gilman formed the church’s Heartfelt Quilters group in the late 1990s. Since then, the quilters have worked together to craft quilts for Clark County foster children in crisis. The group members decided to branch out a bit in 2014, after Gilman saw a quilting magazine article on Hope 4 Women International’s “Dress a Girl Around the World” project. Now, the dress-making project, which provides handmade clothing to girls across the globe, has become a Lenten tradition at the Washougal church.
According to Hope 4 Women International President Rachel Eggum Cinader’s online statement about her “Dress a Girl Around the World” program, the project started with a simple pillowcase-dress pattern and a desire to provide at least one dress for every girl. Volunteers throughout the world take the pattern and run with it, crafting dresses for girls in countries such as Uganda, where the “Dress a Girl” project got its start.
Locally, the Washougal group and other dressmakers have contributed more than 650 dresses to the international effort over the past three years. In 2015, the quilters crafted 97 dresses. By 2016, they had made 200 more dresses. This year, the group will send more than 360 dresses to girls around the world.
The quilters like to add something special to the outfits by making “pocket buddies” and pinning ribbons and hair bands into the pockets of the dresses.
“We like the dresses decorated with trims and buttons,” Gilman said. “We figure the girls already have ‘ugly’ in their world. It is time for us to share some beauty with them.”
Charlene “Chuckie” Smiley, a 12-year member of the Heartfelt Quilters group, sews T-shirt dresses, buys supplies and picks up donations.
“I’m always amazed at the support we have received, through materials, financial and praise,” Smiley said. “It is a very rewarding mission our church has become involved with.”
Financial contributions are accepted to offset the cost of mailing the dresses. Donations of new underwear — sizes 2 to 16 (no bikinis) — also are accepted.