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Soroptimist International of Quincy has received a $200 grant to help fund purchases of fabric and sewing supplies that support local involvement in the international Dress a Girl Around the World program. SIQ members Mara Beatty, left, and Janice Robinson-Haman serve on the committee that oversees Quincy’s creation and contribution of hundreds of sundresses donated to the program. Member Sally Nichol, not shown, is also on the committee. Photo by Roni Java

Quincy Soroptimist club wins grant for ‘Dress a Girl’ sewing supplies

Who could resist an opportunity to create something beautiful and simultaneously help protect little girls in disadvantaged villages around the world?

Certainly not the members of Soroptimist International of Quincy (SIQ) and other volunteer seamstresses from throughout the community who have been stitching up bright, pretty sundresses for quite some time.

Their generosity and talents result in many bundles every month of new outfits that are donated to the “Dress a Girl Around the World” program. Dress a Girl is sponsored by Hope 4 Women International with chapters all around the U.S. and internationally.

A million dresses and counting

To date, more than one million sundresses have been provided to girls in 81 countries, from Bangladesh, Cambodia and Ethiopia, to the Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, Nepal, Thailand and far beyond.

Dress a Girl participation in our area is familiar to many. The project has been going on for several years and for the last three, the Soroptimist club has taken a leadership role in Quincy.

Just since 2017 in the Quincy area, SIQ members and other volunteers have sewn 704 dresses for the worldwide effort and it’s estimated these ladies have created and donated well over 1,000 outfits all told.

That’s a lot of fabric, thread and trim. So the Soroptimist club was recently excited to win a $200 grant for the program.

The funding came from Soroptimist International’s Sierra Nevada Region that represents over 1,400 members in 54 clubs located from Sacramento to Yreka in California and includes all of Nevada. Quincy is part of this region.

Beautiful and necessary

“We really appreciate the grant from our region and this is so much more than a feel-good project,” Mara Beatty explained one morning, standing under a large quilted wall map of the world hanging in the community room located in back of Our Savior Lutheran Church on High Street in downtown Quincy.

“The message of this international effort is that every girl should have a beautiful dress to wear and it’s very necessary, too, because it’s about protecting young girls in developing nations,” said Beatty, who shares the SIQ’s Dress a Girl committee duties with members Janice Robinson-Haman and Sally Nichol.

Together, they coordinate meetings every third Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m. to dispense sewing supplies and sundress kits from the welcoming environment at the church, which provides space for bins of fabric, buttons and more.

Rev. Kendrah Fredricksen was working in her office that morning and popped out for a moment to express her church’s support for the work.

“Over the years, we’ve had a variety of volunteers from the community who like to be part of this dress project,” she said.

More than just a pretty dress

Rachel Eggum Cinader of Iowa is president of Hope 4 Women International and she founded Dress a Girl Around the World in 2009. Contacted for this story, she expressed heartfelt appreciation for the Plumas County sewing volunteers and their contribution to the program’s success.

“We serve women and girls at risk and this will be the only gift most of these girls will ever receive,” Cinader said. “In addition, we have been told by local pastors that having the girls dressed nicely, with the Dress a Girl label prominently attached to a sundress, indicates that these girls are under the care of an organization and it could help to deter would-be predators and traffickers. As we distribute dresses to girls in need, we want to warn them and their parents and guardians of the traps of human trafficking.”

Cinader explained her organization was founded on the beliefs that everyone is worthy of love and respect and every girl deserves at least one new dress.

“Through the dresses, we hope to show the girls they are loved and to give them the dignity of a new dress,” she said, adding that being involved in the project seems to benefit the volunteers to a great extent, too.

“We’ve seen many women who are sewing the dresses find purpose in their lives — even when they are facing age-related illnesses or cancer,” Cinader commented. “They keep getting out of bed in the morning because, I’m told, when they think of the little girls for whom they are sewing, they have a reason to go on.”

Kits galore, just add creativity

About 10 to 15 dedicated volunteers help out at the Soroptimist committee’s monthly Tuesday meetings at the church. The members say they enjoy making it easy for local sewing enthusiasts to be part of the project.

Sewn with skill and adorned with trims, lace, buttons and pockets in sizes 6 months to 14 years, the colorful cotton sundresses are both pretty and durable enough for playtime or school. When the garments are ready to be donated to Dress a Girl Around the World, SIQ member Kathy Price delivers them to a Sacramento group that oversees the distribution.

“We know these dresses are going all over the world,” said committee member Robinson-Haman. “It’s really fun to be part of this, making up kits that people can just take and get started on or they’re welcome to look through our supplies and put together their own sundress kit. We even provide the thread and cut out the patterns for them.”

Creative expression is encouraged and an average of 15 to 25 completed dresses come back every month all year long, reflecting a range of individual styles and combinations of materials.

SIQ member Nichol said participants are welcome to bring their sewing machines, though most choose to visit, pick up materials and do the construction at home. The monthly gatherings offer at least six dozen prepared dress kits with everything you need to put together a lovely outfit for a young girl.

Humanitarian teams, individuals, ministries and missionaries hand-deliver the dresses to various countries, according to founder Rachel Eggum Cinader.

Afterwards, the Quincy volunteers find out where their sundress creations were sent and they pin little tags onto the quilted world map hanging on the community room wall. The map is dotted with many tags that specify Uganda, Cambodia, the Philippines and other faraway destinations, and shows just how far good will can travel in the pursuit of friendship, caring and love.

Dress a Girl Around the World

Soroptimist International of Quincy members and other volunteers have created and donated hundreds of handmade sundresses to benefit young girls in developing nations worldwide.

The Dress a Girl Around the World program sponsors many chapters internationally and in the U.S. More than one million dresses have been distributed to girls at risk for human trafficking in 81 countries.

So far, the Quincy-area donations have been sent to:

Cambodia

Cuba

Dominican Republic

Haiti

Kenya

Laos

Mexico

Nepal

Nicaragua

Philippines

Plumas County

Tanzania

Thailand

Tonga

Uganda

For more information, check out Soroptimist International of Quincy and post a question at www.facebook.com/soroptimistquincy/.

Or visit the national program at www.dressagirlaroundtheworld.com .

Human trafficking awareness

According to Hope 4 Women International and its highly successful volunteer Dress a Girl Around the World program that works to protect vulnerable children from human trafficking dangers, human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, after drug smuggling and arms dealing.

Dress a Girl volunteers work with organizations worldwide to educate children, parents and guardians about this tragic crime in order to help families be more aware and less likely to be deceived (into relinquishing their children).

– A child is trafficked every 30 seconds.

– Estimates indicate approximately 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation and 19 percent involves labor exploitation.

– The average age of a young woman being trafficked is 12 to 14 years old.

– 1.2 million children are brought into the slave trade each year.

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