Group turns pillowcases into dresses

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More than 200 orphaned girls in Haiti received new dresses this month; dresses made by local women who used inexpensive, ordinary pillowcases.

The dresses are much more than a simple gift. The image that such new clothing offers actually gives protection against predators who often exploit such impoverished children, said Cecilia Satler, co-president of The Women of St. Benedict the Abbott in Peters, the group that sewed the dresses.

The clean, new dresses will give the impression that young girls are cared for either by an agency or a family, she said.

The McMurray area women started the project last month and planned to make 50 dresses. But the project received an unexpected outpouring of help and materials. The women were able to make 204 dresses and send them to Haiti via a mission group that is visiting the tiny island country that still suffers the damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The women met four Tuesdays in January for what Mrs. Satler called "organized chaos."

"It was wonderful ... women brought their sewing machines, material, pillowcases -- and smiles. There was a job for everyone, even those who do not sew. Some were sorting thread and yarn, others made ribbon flowers, some cut out the armholes."

The dresses were inspired by an article the women read about pillowcase dresses made by youth group at New Day Assembly of God Church in Upper St. Clair.

In July, New Day has a team traveling to Haiti that will deliver the dresses to missionaries, who will distribute them to the children.

"If the dresses go through Customs, they may not end up with the missionaries in Haiti. Things have a way of getting waylaid," Mrs. Malloy said.

The dresses from both groups vary in color, print and size. But red is avoided because it symbolizes voodoo, Mrs. Malloy noted.

Some dresses are embellished with lace and ribbon, some with buttons. Some dresses have pockets, some have boat necklines, some are gathered at the shoulders, but all are made with love, according to Mrs. Satler.

The St. Benedict group plans to continue the project and send more with New Day's planned trip.


Jill Thurston, freelance writer:


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