It all began when one of Kessler’s vendors featured a dress pattern from Hope for Kids International, with the proceeds from pattern sales going to charity. The non-profit organization sends dresses made by volunteers to needy children worldwide.
Kessler said she purchased a couple of patterns with the idea of asking women from her church to help make a few dresses.
But word got around, and 26 people converged June 29 and 30 in the back room of Kessler’s Kreations to sew the sundresses.
“I was hoping for 50 (dresses), Susan (Paine) was hoping for 20, but we did 67 total,” Kessler said. “So, it was great.”
Kessler said the project differed from quilting in that people of all skill levels could––and did––participate.
“Not everyone sews, but there’s a job here that everyone can do,” she said. “We had people pinning, pressing, sewing, cutting out the arm holes, feeding elastic through.
“So there were many different skill levels, or no skills required.”
“It was a good way to use up the fabric,” Kessler said. “I thought, we have more fabric than we’ll ever need for quilts, so I decided we would just do this and it really kind of grew.”
The sundresses were originally one size, but Kessler said they also designed a smaller size to accommodate a wider age range of body types.
They are also made with strips of fabric for the shoulder straps, allowing for the dress to be modified as the child grows.
“The small dresses will fit 3- to 5-year-olds and the large dresses will fit 6- to 10-year-olds,” Paine said. “Due to poverty, the girls are much smaller than our girls, but usually a lot taller, too. So what would fit a child here, may not fit a child there.”
Paine, a Hillsboro resident, agreed to take the dresses to their new owners in?Togo, Africa, where she is traveling this week to visit several Compassion International children’s projects.
She will be taking only 50 of the dresses, due to weight constraints. T-shirts also have been donated to give to the boys at the project sites.
“Most of those girls have never had anything brand-new of their own, ever,” Kessler said. “It’s always hand-me-down, or something their folks fashioned from some other outfit.”
Paine agreed, saying the dresses will go to the most needy and likely will be the first dress the girls have owned.
“Just imagine if you were 9 years old and someone was giving you a dress that you didn’t have to share with your sisters or cousins,” Paine said.
“I have noticed from other travels I’ve made that the children share in a way our children in the U.S. don’t share. I’m sure the dresses will be handed down time and again until they are threadbare.”
Though the dresses are now traveling overseas and will be in the hands of their eager young owners, the local women involved are already planning to make more.
“We’ve talked about continuing it, we just haven’t set anything definite yet,” Kessler said.
Paine’s sister will be traveling to Africa again next January or February, Kessler said, so they may send some dresses with her.
One local family is working to adopt a girl from an orphanage in Guatemala, Kessler said, so they may send dresses with that family for the girls at the orphanage.
If nothing else, women will make dresses for the Hope for Kids International program to distribute overseas to children who need them.
Wherever the dresses end up, one fact seems certain: There will be no shortage of helping hands to make more.
“It just amazed me how many other people joined in, spending some time working for somebody besides themselves for a day,” Kessler said. “It just amazes me how God has touched so many hearts to help someone they don’t even know.”