by Cori Hilsgen
Local resident Joyce Stock is back home in St. Joseph after spending some time in Florida, and she is once again busy sewing dresses for children in Haiti. She is looking for other volunteers who know how to sew and might also be interested in helping sew dresses.
Last year, Stock and her sister, Janice Stock, sewed more than 200 dresses and 30 skirts. They started sewing the dresses after Joyce’s daughter and son-in-law, Ginny and Dale Anderson, and their son and Joyce’s grandson, Eli, visited Haiti on a mission trip.
The idea first came from the Women of Peace who belong to Peace Lutheran Church in Cold Spring.
Stock currently has two other helpers but said she could use additional helping hands. Dorothy Berg and Mary Schwinghammer, who live in Waite Park, recently began helping her sew dresses.
Stock said she will do the cutting out of the fabric and will also provide sewers with fabric and materials for finishing and trimming the dresses, items which have been donated to her.
Sewers would provide thread and small pieces of elastic for the garments they create. All of the sewing is done by machine, and no hand sewing is necessary to make the dresses.
Stock said she would gladly show new volunteers what the finished dresses look like and they could even take one along to use as a sample. She would also show them how she sews the dresses so there is consistency and no frustration with sewing them.
Stock sews the dresses in children’s sizes 2-4 up to 12-14. If she has large bold prints that don’t necessarily work for a child’s dress, she also sews ankle-length women’s skirts.
“This is a very fulfilling project,” Stock said. “As I sew the dresses, I say a prayer for the little girl who will get the dress. I think about how exciting it must be for someone who has never had a new dress to receive a new dress.”
She said she enjoys adding a little trim across the yoke and around the bottom hem of the dresses.
Stock said she also enjoys making jewelry and sent some of it to Haitian mothers and teenage girls when the June mission-trip traveled to Haiti.
“I am paying it forward,” Stock said. “We are so blessed to have so much in this country, and I can easily help someone who has nothing.”
Stock and her husband, Dick, sponsor a Haitian boy, Calypso, who is in second grade. For $500 each year Calypso receives a hot meal at noon, clothing and his education. She said some Haitian parents are not able to afford to send all of their children to school, so some siblings might not be able to attend school. By sponsoring Calypso, they are able to help him receive an education.
Stock said she is able to include a few small items in an 8- x 10-inch or 9- x 13-inch manila envelope to give to his family. Items do not need to be new but can also be gently-used items.
She plans to send along some sunglasses, jewelry and small toys.
Donations are limited, so things are kept comparable and fair for Haitian families.
Stock said she gladly accepts cotton fabric suitable for dresses or skirts, bias tape or other finishing items and trim that anyone wants to donate for the dresses.
She said if anyone would be interested in sewing shorts for boys, that would be another option that could be pursued, but she herself plans to continue to sew dresses.
The finished dresses were taken with people who traveled on a June 3-10 mission trip to Haiti.
Eleven people from Karla and Shane Smetana’s family traveled on the June mission trip. The Smetanas own Flexible Pipe Tool Co. in St. Joseph. Karla made her first mission trip in 2014 and said it changed her life.
Karla and her two sons, Chase and Colton, as well as her mother, Marian Ackerson from Cold Spring, traveled on that trip. Others included people from Oak Grove, Champlin, Rogers and Cumberland, Wis. While one couple has been to Haiti more than 10 times, it was the first time that four of those traveling have been there.
The dresses are given to World Wide Village, a Minnesota-based non-profit organization that has sponsored trips to Haiti for many years.
The World Wide Village workers give them to some of the leaders of the local areas of Williamson and Luly in Haiti, and they distribute them to other Haitians.
This encourages Haitians to help other Haitians and decreases dependence on gifts from Americans.
World Wide Village allows Americans a chance to donate their time and resources and work alongside the Haitian people toward improving their lives.
The June team’s projects included painting the interior of a library, obtaining books for the library and hanging a sign, interviewing families who have received goats, checking the shelves in the well house to ensure they have been reinforced to hold batteries, installing batteries on the shelves for a solar system, teaching a health class, bringing supplies and teaching women at the sewing school, distributing dresses and other supplies and more.
Stock said the need for the dresses is ongoing, and she will continue to sew for the mission trips as she is able to and as long as groups from various places continue to travel on the trips.
If interested in helping sew dresses or for more information, contact Stock at 320-363-4350. For more information on Haiti mission trips, visit the website worldwidevillage.org.