Tri-City seamstresses sew dresses for African children

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 8, 2013 

Chris Macourek caught a segment on the national news a few years back about a nonprofit that sends simple dresses to needy girls in Africa.

Her husband had died about six months before, and "I thought doing some volunteer work would be good therapy," she told the Herald.

It's turned out to be more than that. The Richland woman and a team of faithful Tri-City area seamstresses are on the cusp of sending off their 3,000th dress to the Michigan-based Little Dresses for Africa, which distributes the garments to orphanages, churches and schools.

They expect to hit the milestone and then some in June.

"It's been amazing," Macourek said. "We know there's some little girl in the world who's never had a decent piece of clothing, but can have a brand new dress (because of our work)."

Since it formed, Little Dresses for Africa has received more than 1.5 million dresses total, sending them off to 43 African countries as well as other parts of the world -- "in times of crisis or when asked" -- from Cambodia to the Appalachian Mountains, according to its website, www.littledressesforafrica.org.

Macourek coordinates the local sewing effort, mailing off the cotton dresses to the Michigan nonprofit every few months.

The latest shipment of 300-plus dresses brought the group's tally to more than 2,800.

Macourek said gifts of fabric and money for shipping always seem to come through. "I tell people, when you do something from your heart, God opens up the doors," she said.

The local sewing crew numbers about 40 and volunteers work at their own pace.

Jane Horton of Richland has made scores of dresses since she read an article in the Herald two years ago about Macourek's effort and arranged to help. The patterns are simple, she said.

She's retired -- "at 90, I should be," she said -- and needed a project that drew her interest.

"It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I'm not just doing stuff; I'm contributing to something," she said. "It's not wasted time."

Horton said she may sell her house and move to a retirement home -- but it will need to have room for her sewing machine.

"I definitely want to continue," she said.

To become a seamstress or provide a gift of cotton fabric (at least 11/2 yards) or shipping money, email Macourek at msquared5@myfrontiermail.com.

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