Verona Press - 11/13/2014
Always ‘Moore’ to sew
Share ‘N Care group makes little dresses, big difference
Unified Newspaper Group
This spring, the women of the Share ‘N Care group started noticing bags of colorful, hand-sewn dresses appear at Sugar River United Methodist Church. People had dropped off fabric for them to stitch, knit, crochet or quilt with before, but not completed items quite like this.
They had no idea who was responsible for the talented, generous work, either. Sharon Billmeyer, the group’s coordinator and co-founder, was determined to find out, so she could thank the person and extend an invitation to join Share ‘N Care.
When she asked around the congregation if anyone had spotted the anonymous donor, the secret sewer was revealed: Patti Moore, a new parishioner who has been sewing since her grandmother taught her when she was 5, and a quilter since 2000.
“This is a daughterless mother,” Moore told the Press as she folded and packaged the dresses into ziplock bags. “The first (dress) that I made, I sat there thinking – if I had a daughter, we could be sewing together. I got really emotional, and then I thought, OK, some mother’s daughter is going to get this lovely dress.”
For the third year, the group created clothing for Little Dresses for Africa. They are simple dresses made out of pillowcases and distributed through orphanages, churches and schools in various countries in crisis. The organization has collected more than 2.5 million dresses, and thanks to Moore and her helpers, Verona is adding to that number, one dress at a time.
Reflecting on her favorite patterns, Moore said she’ll be a bit sad to see her little creations leave, yet she knows the happy reactions they’ll receive at the other end of their long journey.
“As I sewed each one, I gave great care to detail, imagining a little girl wearing it,” she said.
But more than just the dresses, she also cherishes the connections she has made while sewing alongside her new friends.
“I’ve been told that I’m the story, but it’s really the women (in Share ‘N Care) who embraced me,” she said.
Moore has made her presence known to more than just the Share ‘N Care group, but also the internet, thanks to a Facebook posting that showed her sitting on the floor surrounded by the dresses she made.
While the photo itself may not seem particularly viral-worthy on its own, the story behind it is.
Her son took the photo on July 28, Moore’s birthday, when she announced she met her personal challenge by making 62 of the dresses by her 62nd birthday.
With more than 3,000 “likes,” 1,000 comments, 50 shares and subsequent blog posts, the photo has spread among quilting groups on Facebook and beyond to help Little Dresses for Africa gain more exposure.
Moore started making the dresses in April after hearing that kits were available in the church fellowship hall if anyone wanted to bring them home to work on. She was eager to take on the project – and without recognition. On May 24, she realized she had already made 26 dresses, but needed to focus on making more.
“I need a personal challenge to stay motivated,” Moore said.
That’s when she decided to make another 36 dresses in the remaining two months before her birthday. Moore ended up exceeding her goal weeks in advance, so she went back and added pockets to all of the dresses.
Inside nearly 40 of those pockets are little yarn dolls that the women made, after member Vergie Vreugdenhil heard about them through friends who are missionaries. Angels of Mercy, an organization with the goal of stopping human trafficking, came up with the handmade doll pattern to deter predators from enticing children to come with them.
The dolls are generally handed out to little girls in some of the churches in those countries to prevent them from being kidnapped and sold into the sex trade.
“If a predator sees a girl with a nice dress and a doll, he knows that someone cares about her, and that if he were to take her someone would come after him,” Moore said. Next year they hope to make enough dolls to go with all of the dresses.
Together, she and the group made nearly 140 dresses this summer. Once they were completed, some Share ‘N Care members made a trip in August to Nancy’s Notions in Beaver Dam, a collection point that has sent more than 100,000 dresses to date. Nancy Zieman covers the cost of postage to mail them wherever in the world the need is, Moore explained.
With all the attention the photo has received, two comments in particular stick out to Moore.
“One woman said, ‘Do you and the ladies know that you are making some little girl’s best day ever?’” Moore said. “Another woman said something that will stay with me all my life,” ‘Could you imagine if everyone made just one dress?’”
But people are not just typing words of encouragement, they are also sending supplies to Share ‘N Care or setting individual goals themselves.
Share ‘N Care has already received donations of more than 70 yards of fabric for the dresses. Since one dress only takes about one yard of fabric to make, the group literally has their work cut out for them.
A handful of people from across the country have also donated trims, including ribbons, rick rack, bias tape and lace. Another woman even wants to make hair bows to send along with dresses.
The quilting network has given back to Verona as well. When Moore shared the story online about the tornado that hit Country View Elementary School in June, someone included 37 books along with fabric.
“My friend remembered this and collected the books to send to the children,” Moore said. “Amazing love.”
She said “one of the greatest surprises” so far was when a retired UMC clergy member from Colorado requested to be a long distance member of Share ‘N Care, pledging to make at least two dresses a month for the group.
Some may say Moore has created a bit of a movement online.
“Movement – that’s my challenge for this year up to my 63rd (birthday) is walking 63 minutes a day,” she said.
Patchwork of people, projects
When Sugar River UMC first started almost nine years ago, one of its members approached Sharon Billmeyer and asked what she would like have happen in the church.
“She met me for coffee and said, ‘We’re a new church, we can do anything.’ And I said, ‘Well, I always thought that I’d like to get together with a group of people to figure out what gifts we have to serve God and to pray for one another,’ Billmeyer said.
Share ‘N Care became that group.
“It was not a church-initiated group,” she said. “We started as a group who wanted to be community, that’s why we thought it would be inviting to have it in a coffee shop that anybody can feel comfortable coming there.”
From Retro Cafe to Pasqual’s and the former library to the former bowling alley, Share ‘N Care has had many homes in the community for two hours on Wednesday mornings. They are glad to be in their “new” location with natural lighting and plenty of storage space.
“There’ve always been people who don’t belong to this church who have been part of the group,” Billmeyer said. “There have been as few as two (members) … and probably as many as 11.”
For the approximately seven current members (some of which donate their time from home), the Share ‘N Care group has been a way for them to get to know other people and share their joys and concerns – even if they don’t know how to sew, knit or crochet.
The Little Dresses for Africa kits, which include everything to make the dress except the thread, are available for pickup anytime the church office is open. But that’s not the only project Share ‘N Care works on during the year.
Knitting and crocheting hats, prayer shawls and lap afghans allows the ladies to talk more rather than being scattered around on sewing machines.
The group recently finished making and donating 217 hats for the Kiwanis Verona Warm Winters Project. The ladies have also made hats for soldiers, those on mission trips and newborns in hospitals.
They also put together flood buckets and layette kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which often precedes the Red Cross in disaster areas.
Flood buckets contain long gloves and cleaning supplies initially needed during a flood or other disaster. The group makes receiving blankets, bibs and sweaters to get packaged together with cloth diapers, onesies and other newborn necessities for the baby layettes.
Patti Moore wants to look into how feasible it would be for the group to help with Days for Girls, which helps girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness.
“These are projects to make washable and reusable sanitary pads and holders for girls,” Moore said. She explained that in some parts of the world many girls have nothing to wear when they begin menstruating, and the stains on their clothes can lead to girls dropping out of school for fear of harassment and harm.
Moore said that with more people willing to join the group, they would be able to tackle new projects.
“All are welcome regardless of faith or belief,” she said. “Come and we will find a purpose for you and a way for you to contribute.”