SIDNEY — It’s been more than three years since a group of friends who attend Holy Angels Catholic Church began wrapping needy children in God’s love.
Jeanne Schlagetter’s cousin had asked her to help a mission effort by making dresses for little girls. She told her friends, Judy Zimmerman, Karen Stocksdill and Janet Aselage, about it. The women, all from Sidney and all seamstresses, began to work on the dresses to use up fabric left over from other projects. They decided to find their own outlets for the finished clothing.
Wrapped in God’s Love was born. Since early 2013, parishioners and members of the public have met twice a year in Sidney and twice a year in Maria Stein to make clothing, blankets, Beads of Courage bags, prayer shawls and warm caps. This year, a third site has been added.
The group has planned three Afternoons of Service this fall: Oct. 15, from 1 to 3 p.m., in the Knights of Columbus hall, 1300 Fourth Ave.; Oct. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, 300 E. Parkwood St.; and Nov. 5, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein.
The YMCA Afternoon of Service falls on the national Make a Difference Day. The YMCA has partnered with the Holy Angels Outreach Committee to host the Afternoon of Service.
Since the four friends began organizing their efforts, More than 2,700 dresses have been sent to Haiti, Honduras, Ghana, Tanzania, Guatemala and the Philippines and to children in southern states in the U.S. Beyond what some might call the miracle of that, the group has paid not one cent in shipping.
“Karen went on line” to find options, Schlagetter said.
“They gave an address, but it’s expensive,” Stocksdill said. Instead, the clothing has been delivered personally by local people who were traveling to those locations anyway or it has been sent by people who volunteered to pay for the shipment.
“God always sends somebody to us,” Schlagetter said. And the deliverers bring back comments from the recipients.
“I felt special.” “I felt like God loved me,” the children have said when presented with brand new clothes.
“We’re trying to wrap people in God’s love, to make kids feel pride and dignity,” Zimmerman said.
In addition to organizing the semi-annual service days, the group has placed bins in the Holy Angels and Shrine of the Holy Relics churches. Members of the congregations are free to leave items in the bins that they have made at home. People have also donated fabric, yarn, thread, ric rac and buttons by dropping them into the bins.
“We have no idea who makes them,” Zimmerman said of what they find every week when they check on the bins.
They do know that as many as 50 people show up for the service days.
“We’ve had whole families come. One with five kids sat around a table and made a blanket together,” Zimmerman said. And people of all ages attend. Helpers from 6 to 90 have joined in.
“And it doesn’t have to be a woman. We’ve had men who came in,” Aselage said.
Participants who sew are asked to take their own sewing machines and shears to use during the events. Supplies will be provided, but donations of fabric, fleece and notions, especially straight pins, are always appreciated, the women said. They create “kits” comprising all the items needed to make a dress or shorts. The kits are distributed during the Afternoons of Service and also are left in the church bins for people to take home.
“People like the anonymity,” Schlagetter said. “And there’s no time frame. You can make one in a year or 100 a year.”
Volunteers who don’t sew are also welcome at the Afternoons of Service. They can help with cutting fabric and ironing or adding trim.
People don’t have to know how to sew to make blankets. Fleece security blankets are given to children in Dayton Children’s Hospital and to people in homeless shelters. More than 500 have been donated by the Holy Angels group in the last three years.
Knitters and those who crochet are invited to take their needles and crochet hooks to make prayer shawls, caps and squares that are pieced into blankets. The shawls are given to people who are facing challenges. The blankets are sent to children in Africa that have been orphaned by AIDS. The caps, a new venture this year, will go to the Joseph Connection’s drive for 1,000 hats for needy people in Mexico, to Holy Angels Soup Kitchen visitors, to youngsters in Appalachia and to children in the Sidney City Schools who need them.
The Beads of Courage bags are sent to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for patients facing life-threatening illnesses. The children “earn” beads by completing varous medical treatments. They keep the beads in the colorful bags that they can attach to IV poles.
“We delivered 200 in May of this year,” Aselage said.
Shorts-making was added to dressmaking after a local family adopted two boys from an African country. Little Dresses for Africa, a national service project, had been distributing pillowcase dresses on the continent for years. When the boys arrived in Sidney, they were wearing those dresses.
“Time to make shorts,” laughed Stocksdill.
A third-grade teacher at Holy Angels involved her students one year. They made dresses for the project.
“A mother said, ‘I can’t sew.’ Her third-grade son said, ‘I can sew, Mom!’” Zimmerman said. “People worry about making mistakes.”
“But we just make it fun,” Schlagetter added.
Afternoon of Service participants can stay for the whole afternoon or for a shorter period of time.
The group will also have Fair Trade snacks for sale to benefit Fair Trade Products.
For information about Wrapped in God’s Love or an Afternoon of Service event, call 638-2733 or email [email protected]
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.