Local churches have fun while serving

Plastic shopping bags are cut into loops and knotted together to make a sort of plastic yarn or “plarn” that is used by women in Marion to crochet bed mats for homeless folks all over the world. The mats are 6 feet by 3 feet and can be washed off and hung to dry in the sun.

 

Women gather together every Thursday in Marion at the Lutheran Church to make blankets for those in need all over the world. They use donated fabrics to create one-of-a-kind creations.

 

These are just some of the over 5,000 dresses that a group called Sew Much Love at Eastmoor Church in Marion has put together over the last 9 ½ years. They donate them to little girls all over the world.

 

Norma Kline oversees the ministry Sew Much Love and enjoys getting together with others every month at Eastmoor Church in Marion to make dresses for little girls all over the world.

*This is the third article in a series about ways to repurpose materials to keep them out of landfills and help them find a second life. Check back for more articles in this series.

Two churches in Marion are different denominations and located on different streets but both are doing some very similar things. They are helping others and keeping materials out of the landfills. And they are having a wonderful time while doing it.

“We have a lot of fun. We eat lunch here. It’s just a whole two days each month of fellowship, fun and doing the Lord’s work,” said Norma Kline who heads up the group Sew Much Love at Eastmoor Church in Marion.

The group makes dresses for little girls. The group recently met on Feb. 20 and 21 for two full days and completed 67 dresses. They make the dresses out of donated fabric that comes from all over. While the fabric is unused, much of it comes from scraps used from other projects around Marion County and thrift stores and keeps the material from going to waste and to landfills.

Kline never knows who exactly will show up and every day looks different.

“I set the date and they come. I send out the texts and messages and let people know and whoever can be here comes,” said Kline. “Sometimes we have four sewers, sometimes we have one. But there are always other jobs people can do. There is always something someone can do. So it’s just kind of whoever shows up and can help. Whoever can come.”

The women who come are from all different churches and are from all over Marion County.

“It doesn’t matter what denomination you are from. We’re from all different churches. About three or four are from this church, but you don’t have to be,” said Kline.

While only the women who bring their sewing machines can sew, the other women can do other jobs. And some women take home tasks and work on them such as making pockets for the dresses. It takes many hands to get the dresses done.

“People say ‘Oh, I can’t sew so I can’t help.’ Well, you don’t have to sew to help. There are lots of jobs you can do,” said Belinda Skiles. “Just show up.”

Each dress has the same basic design with strings that tie at the top and a flower attached and a pocket, but every one is uniquely designed and as different as the fabric and the women who designed them. The women enjoy matching different fabrics and adding special touches to each dress while spending time together.

“We get to hang out and be creative. It’s fun. And you get to do good while you’re at it,” said Skiles.

The group has been working for about nine and a half years with about a about a year and a half off for COVID-19. They have made over 5,000 dresses now that they have sent all over the world to places including India, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Panama, Ecuador, Brazil, the Amazon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Kentucky, New Mexico and Wichita.

Kline said that sometimes it’s hard to find a group to take them, but God always has a plan.

“We find somebody that’ll take them on a missions trip. Or one of us will come across someone who is traveling somewhere and will take them with them and give them to someone in need. We always find someone who needs them,” said Kline.

The group accepts fabric donations but can only use 100% cotton fabric as it is safer around open flames than other fabrics and much of the populations that receive their dresses are close to open fires. When they do get fabric that is double knit or has polyester and other material in it, they donate it to the Lutheran Church in Marion over a few streets that have a ministry of their own.

The Lutheran Church in Marion has been making blanket for those in Orphan Grain Train, Inc for years. According to leader Ruth Grange, the group gets together every Thursday at the church from 1-3 p.m. and works on making blankets.

Some of the work is done at home such as piecing together the quilt tops.

“Then we come up here and do all this. We basically tie it here. I do a lot of the cutting out the backs and the middles. I cut it up and then the ladies help by sewing these together. We do the big pieces at home,” said Lange. “And then we come back here and we tie them. Then we turn it up and I take it home again and zigzag.”

The group also makes bed mats for the homeless from plastic grocery sacks like you get from Carlson’s, Dale’s and Dollar General. They cut loops out of the bags, getting about three on average from each bag after cutting off the bottom and the handles. They tie the loops together making a “ball” of “plarn” which is what the ladies have nicknamed the long strip of what becomes the material they use to then crochet the mats from a clever merging of the words plastic and yarn.
“The ladies the use the balls to crochet the mats that end up being about 6 feet by 3 feet. They help the homeless get some cushion and warmth between them and the concrete. They are surprisingly durable and they can wash them off and then hang them up to dry in the sun,” said Lange.

It takes about 500-700 bags to make one mat which is a large amount that stays out of landfills and goes to helping out those in need.

For now, the group has more than enough fabric and plastic bags to keep them supplied for some time, but they encourage people to check back in the future to see if they need more donations.

They are more than open to helping hands for their projects.

“We love to have anyone help us. You don’t have to go to church here to help. We have several ladies who help out here who do not attend our church. We all have a good time visiting. We take a break to enjoy snacks and we visit while we work. We all have a fun time,” said Lange.

Both groups are open to anyone who wants to come and help out and no special skills are required at either group. The Eastmoor group meets once a month for two days. They have a Facebook group page for those interested in more information. The Lutheran Church group meets every Thursday from 1-3, so show up.

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