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Evart group sewing seeds of hope for impoverished children

Dresses made out of pillow cases might not sound like life-saving apparel, but that’s exactly how Colleen Underwood thinks about it.

A couple of months ago, Underwood started making child-sized dresses out of pillowcases and shipping them to a church that handles the clothing for Little Dresses for Africa, a Michigan-based charity. The organization sends dresses to Malawi, other African nations and impoverished places around the world.

Girls that appear cared-for are less likely to be nabbed by human traffickers. The dresses help with that, said Underwood, who also serves on the Meceola Human Trafficking Task Force and lives in Hersey.

The pillowcase dress pattern is inexpensive and pretty easy, Underwood said. She buys pillow cases at garage sales for 50 cents. Bias tape and elastic, the other two supplies the project requires, are not very expensive either. And the pattern doesn’t require much sewing know-how.

Now Underwood’s sewing project has partners.

This week, a group dubbed “Sewing Seeds of Hope” by Underwood met for the first time at Get Crafty, a craft store in downtown Evart.

Misty Barnett, owner of Get Crafty, left, Kathy Ellsworth and Ada Vore work with elastic and other supplies that are used to make dresses out of pillowcases.

Six women sat at a couple of tables near the store’s center and tackled the project in an assembly line. Some snipped arm holes into the dresses, others measured elastic and others sewed.

It’s not the only crafting-with-a-mission happening at Get Crafty. Owner Misty Barnett coordinates efforts to make lap quilts for seniors and hats and mittens for kids at Evart Elementary. Another customer uses plastic bags to make mats for homeless people.

Ada Vore, a quilter who recently started shopping at the store, said she hasn’t done much crafting for charity (though she did once donate a quilt for a fundraiser) and showed up at the workshop simply because it sounded fun.

Most of the women said they’d be back for future workshops.

Underwood is hoping the group will meet monthly for the pillowcase dresses project and other efforts, she said.

The pillowcase dress pattern comes from the Little Dresses for Africa website. There’s also a pattern for making pants for boys, but the organization says girls are its main focus. They ask mission groups that distribute the clothing to put the dresses on girls before they put the pants on the boys.

And they mean that literally. Little Dresses for Africa asks volunteers to make sure the clothing is worn, not just delivered and set aside, said Conne Kovach, a volunteer with Little Dresses for Africa who doesn’t have an official title but is listed as the main contact on the charity’s website.

Many of the children don’t have clothing at all in the villages the organization serves.

The group doesn’t have “a real big part” in human trafficking abolition movements, said Kovach.

But she agreed with Underwood that traffickers are less likely to bother girls who look like they’re being cared for.

Hopefully, the pillowcase dresses will get people talking about human trafficking, Underwood said.

“A lot of people don’t want to believe it’s here, but it is,” she said.

Story from Cadillac News.

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