Friday, June 17, 2011

Project First Day

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it's important, so I hope you will read it all.

In the past I've shown you beautiful quilts made by a local artist named Susan Stewart. You may have also seen her name several times as a big winner in Houston and Paducah.  I've always felt honored to know Susan personally.  She makes amazing quilts like this one

But before Sue was a quilter she was an heirloom sewing designer and artist. In addition she is also such a sweet person with a kind and giving heart.  Last month, following the Joplin tornado, she initiated a project to reach out to the children in Joplin.  I'll let Sue's own words explain as I quote from her May Newsletter:

From newsletter...
Sunday afternoon (May21), the tornado sirens sounded, so I unplugged my machines, went in the basement, and watched the weather.  The storms didn't materialize here, so I went back to work.  A short time later, I checked the weather again.  The same storm system that skipped us had devastated Joplin, MO, a town of 50,000.  I've lived within 100 miles of Joplin, in several different towns, for the past 26 years, and for the past ten have lived here in Pittsburg, KS, which is just 25 miles from Joplin.  Joplin is where we go out to eat, to shop at Sam's Club, to do anything we can't do here in little Pittsburg.  Now, one of the two hospitals is destroyed, over 40 doctor's offices, hundreds of businesses including WalMart and Home Depot, the high school, part of a middle school and several elementary schools are gone, and I've heard reports that 5000 homes have been destroyed.  I'm sure you've all seen the pictures in the news. 

First, until the end of June, for every
Iris pattern you purchase, I will donate $5.00 to the Red Cross for Joplin tornado relief. 

 Second - and this is a much bigger idea - thousands of people have lost everything.  The summer will pass and the Red Cross will leave.  And school will start, somehow, somewhere, because all those schools will not yet be re-built.  Do you remember being excited about the start of the school year when you were young?  I certainly do!  And I always had a new dress for the first day of school.  I loved those new first-day-of-school dresses; I think my Dad took a picture of me every year, and for years I remembered what I wore for the first day of each new grade.  Now, what do we all do?  We sew!  Most of you, my newsletter readers, make children's garments.  I would like to ask all of you to please consider making one or more first-day-of-school dresses for little girls in Joplin who have lost everything.  They don't have to be fancy; this is not heirloom country.  Pretty, bright, and happy is good.  Easy-care is good.  All sizes are good, from pre-school sizes up through size 10 or 12 (and don't forget dresses for plus-size girls, who want to be pretty as much as anyone else.)  And, hey, boys are more difficult to sew for, but if you want to make boy's shirts, that's fine, too.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to distribute ready-made clothing or quilts; I just don't have the space or resources.  And there are other charities that help there.  This project is just for hand-made items, to let children know they are special and not forgotten.

 Ship the garments to me, and I will coordinate with an organization to distribute them.  I don't have any definite plans yet, but my husband is a chaplain at the hospital here, and the ministerial alliance in Pittsburg is actively working with its counterpart and the Salvation Army in Joplin.  Perhaps the school system would be interested in helping.  I am sure the distribution can be worked out.  When communications are back on line in Joplin, and after the immediate crises are past, I will check on what the dress codes are for the private schools there. 

So please think about it.  I can't offer tax-exempt deductions.  It's just a chance for you to give a little girl something new and pretty and special and created just for her.  Besides, you can look at it as a way to work through some of your stash and put it to good use!

To those interested, I'll send more details later - after all, these things won't be needed for a few months.   But, if you're so inclined, start sewing.  I, and a lot of little children in Joplin, thank you.

Update 1...
Thank you for your generous offer to help with Project First Day, our effort to provide new, hand-made first-day-of-school outfits for children whose lives have been turned upside down by the devastating Joplin tornado.  Reports are that besides the tragic loss of life, nearly 1500 have been injured, over 5000 buildings were destroyed, and over 4000 jobs impacted.  So many children were affected, either by the loss of someone near to them, the destruction of their homes, or the loss of their parents' jobs.  We are working to make the start of school a happy and hopeful new beginning for them. 

• This is an important part of Project First Day:  Please include with each outfit a simple, personalized note written to the child who will receive it.  Something like "To a very special girl/boy/young lady; I thought of you and prayed for you as I made this outfit for you to wear on the first day of school.  I hope you have a very good school year.  Love, Susan in Kansas."  You can, of course, write whatever you like, but I really want to have these notes included with every outfit so that a sense of "you are a special child" is communicated to the kids.  Write the notes on a note card or something a little sturdier than printer paper, and safety-pin them to the garments.  Also please write the size of the garment on the envelope or the back of the card.

• School is scheduled to start on August 17.  Around here, that's still summer, and the weather is usually quite warm.  Sleeveless and short-sleeved garments made from cotton are probably best.

• For girls, think of simple, pretty dresses, capri-and-top sets, or cute skirts.  For boys, camp shirts are easy to sew.  While I want to keep everything primarily hand-made, you could use a purchased T-shirt and add an applique or machine embroidery design to coordinate with a skirt or capris you've made.  Peasant-type tops and tunic tops are good for girls who are a little older, and will fit a wide range of sizes.  If you haven't already started, I'd suggest pre-shrinking the fabric and trims so that the garment doesn't shrink or pucker after laundering.
• Several people have asked about uniforms for private schools.  I don't yet have the answer to that, but I will try to address that in future communications.
• Ship the garments to:
• Susan Stewart
          PO Box 1371
          Pittsburg, KS  66762

• I will need to receive garments by August 1, 2011.

Thank you for the overwhelming response!  Please forward this to all those you have contacted about helping with this. 

A little over a week ago, I had no idea I would be organizing a nation-wide project!  But we all think this is important.  As Ruth wrote to me:  

"Your email just touched my heart.  Our news... has been reporting this disaster in Joplin regularly, and it has made us all aware of how devastating this is for so many people.  I love to make children’s clothes, so I am going to make dresses, knowing that some little girls are going to be so happy to have something new and pretty for school in the fall.  I’m also an elementary teacher, so I see how excited children are to wear their new outfits.  Count me in, and I will pass this on to others who sew."

Update 2...
I have gotten the "OK" from Sis Hutchinson to have a wall or space to display garments for Project First Day at the Martha Pullen school in July in Huntsville.  I'm teaching at the school.  So if you are attending, bring your garments with you and we will display them there, and I will take them home with me.  Or send them with a friend who's attending.  Other appreciative "sewists" will get to see your creations, plus, you'll save on shipping!

Several people have asked about dress codes in the public schools, and whether sleeveless tops are allowed.  I have checked the handbooks for every elementary and middle school in the system, plus the system-wide guidelines.  Halter tops, tube tops, midriff tops, over-sized armholes, and spaghetti straps are not allowed, but I don't think any of you would make those for school-wear, anyway!  Regular, fitted sleeveless tops and dresses are fine.

Thanks for your efforts!
Until next time...  Sue

You can also join the Facebook Group Project First Day to see what others are making and share your own pictures. 

If you are a sewer besides being a quilter, won't you consider joining in?


Barb said...

Mary, your friend is amazing and has a heart as big as yours, thanks for posting this.

LynCC said...

This is a wonderful program. I've been helping with a similar program for the Alabama tornado victims. What a horrible year for those. :(

Tonya said...

What a neat idea! I don't sew at all but my sister does. I am going to forward this link to her.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I'm going to get out my girl/boy patterns.