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From left: Chloe Monday, Juanita Nix, Wanda Floyd, Andrea Towle, Ginger Stratford, Kathy Michael, and Sherry Johnston hold up some of the nearly 200 dresses sewn by community volunteers at Wesleyan Church in Chester, destined to be shipped to needy girls in several foreign lands. Photo submitted

‘Dress a Girl’ program helps the disadvantaged

Sponsored worldwide by Hope 4 Women International, the ‘Dress a Girl Around the World’ program seeks to provide colorful sundresses for disadvantaged girls living in developing countries — some who have been orphaned or abused.

The international organization has sent hundreds of thousands of dresses to 81 countries since its inception, according to its website.

Ginger Stratford, vice chair on the Wesleyan Church’s board of directors in Chester, has continued that mission along with many others by providing an ongoing opportunity to community members living in the basin to make dresses within sewing groups at the church location or at home.

The intent of the Dress a Girl charitable program is to give girls a dress who may never have had a dress before. Said Stratford, “It’s a wonderful mission project.”

Many people have donated fabric from their long stored materials, as well as donating cash from which fabrics, lace, elastic, rickrack and other items used to embellish the dresses is purchased. Donated material needs to be 100 percent cotton and at least one yard cut.

“All this has come from loving hearts, from women who want to make this program succeed,” Stratford said.

Stratford mentioned the need for new or clean T-shirts to go under the dresses so that the girls receiving them will have increased modesty while wearing the dresses. People in the community who would like to donate T-shirts can contact her or the Wesleyan Church.

Anyone who has basic sewing skills is welcome to join the sewing group. “Even if you don’t sew but are still interested in helping out, there are many other associated tasks that are needed, like ironing or cutting fabric,” said Stratford.

Those who have a sewing machine can bring it, “or just show up,” Stratford said, adding that lunch is also provided during a break.

Fifteen women spent the better part of a year making the nearly 200 customized dresses, all volunteers in Wesleyan-hosted sewing groups. The dresses consist of quality fabrics in a variety of colorful patterns, ranging from baby size to girl’s size 14.

The dresses will be shipped off to such faraway destinations as Sierra Leone, Uganda, the Philippines, Haiti, Guatemala, countries in Central America and other places around the globe.

“The missionaries also keep the suitcases because it becomes a piece of furniture; they live out of it. … We’re always looking for large, good condition suitcases with wheels to pack the dresses in,” noted Stratford.

The Wesleyan Church, located at Frost Avenue and Gay Street in Chester, invites volunteers to make original dresses the third Saturday of every month. The next sewing group is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cash donations for fabric and other material may be mailed to P.O. Box 1305, Chester, CA 96020.

For more information about the local sewing group, call Ginger Stratford at 258-2409. Also check out: dressagirlaroundtheworld.com/.

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