Making a difference a stitch at a time


In one room, women measured and cut the fabric into dresses. In another room, a second grade boy sewed buttons on dresses, while a third grader stitched elastic into them. Next door, the cut and sewed fabrics were ironed.

Next stop? Girls who need them in dozens of countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Malawi and areas in the United States.

This was the “Make a Difference Day” service event Oct. 22 in the basement at Saint Joseph Church in Somers Point, which had young and old come together to “Dress A Girl Around the World,” a ministry of the nondenominational Hope 4 Women International.

For five hours, and using sewing templates and fabric instructions, 60 volunteers created new dresses for young women.

The dresses provide dignity and value — and a level of protection against sex traffickers. Young girls wearing ragged or torn clothing can become easy targets for traffickers, who assume they have no one to take care of them, according to the Dress a Girl Around the World website.

“It was awesome to see the community come together,” donating fabric, bringing their own sewing machines, and giving their afternoon to make beautiful dresses, said Laurel Marchesini, director of Lifelong Formation at the parish.

The service activity did not end on Saturday, Marchesini said. After the event, volunteers took fabric, buttons, and ric rac trim home with them to finish the dresses. After bringing them back to Marchesini, they insisted that she give them more materials to make more dresses. The director estimates that more than 200 dresses will be created and hand-delivered with hope for young women.

“Volunteers at the event knew they were doing something” worthwhile, she said.