Cascade High students sew clothing for kids in need

Some place in the world, 20 young girls will be recipients of a new handmade dress, by someone they likely will never meet.

In Everett, Cascade High School students are the latest group of volunteers to participate in the effort, known as Dress A Girl Around the World. Donated fabric and pillowcases are fashioned into dresses.

Many of the students are members of the school’s Cascade Service class. About two weeks ago, they transformed a corner of the school’s library into an garment production room. They began by cutting, pinning, ironing and sewing the colorful fabrics.

They plan to finish up their work on Wednesday afternoon, a process that could stretch out until 5 or 6 p.m. with the completion of 20 new dresses, said Kelly Rogers, a Cascade teacher who oversees the service class.

The Cascade students are joining sewing enthusiasts across Washington who have been using their talents to make dresses for girls around the world. In the last year alone, the volunteers completed about 2,800 dresses, said Suzanne Lofgren, of Redmond, who helps coordinate the effort.

The dresses are delivered by medical teams, church groups and volunteers to destinations as close as Appalachia to points as distant as Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Nicaragua, she said.

“We’re sewing to provide a dress, but also to help girls discover their worth, their beauty and their importance,” Lofgren said. “We look them in the eye and tell them that someone loves them enough to have made this dress for them.”

Courtney Croft, a Cascade senior and president of the service group, said members usually work on school projects. Croft said she really likes the dress project because it’s so different from their typical volunteer work.

“It’s very awesome to be a part of this,” she said. “Who knew about making dresses out of a pillowcase?”

Simple shifts are made from colorful fabrics that have bows at the shoulder. Some volunteer dressmakers add extra accents, such as zigzag or lace.

The project initially began at the nearby Cascade View Presbyterian Church. Volunteers have completed more than 100 dresses over the past two-and-a-half years, said church member Marguerite Sailer.

When she talked about scheduling another round of dress making, Shirley Vandermeer, a church member and former Everett School Board member asked: “What about Cascade High School?”

The church’s history began in 1962 with its meetings at the high school. “I taught Sunday school in the halls of Cascade High School,” Vandermeer said. “We’ve had that connection over the years.”

Students launched the dress project by publicizing the need for donated pillowcases and fabric. Kassondra Graham, a freshman, said she and two other students helped plan the drive, collecting about 30 pillowcases.

Few Cascade students had sewing experience. “We’ve never done anything so crafty before,” Rogers said.

Rogers said she was surprised at how quickly the students caught on to measuring and pinning. “The thing I enjoyed most was them helping each other,” she said. “That’s the kind of students I have. They don’t need to be told to help each other.”

The class also expanded the project to make shorts for boys. Wyatt Larsen, a junior, had a bemused look of someone unaccustomed to familiarity with needles, thread and pins, but nonetheless was smiling as he held up the shorts-in-the-making.

“I feel like I’m helping out people who need it,” he said.

Alexandria White, a freshman, was one of the few students who had previous sewing experience. Her interest came in part from the example of her grandmother, who loves sewing.

White said her interest began with wanting to make outfits for her American Girl dolls. This developed into making dresses for herself.

What drew her to the dress project was knowing they would be delivered to girls around the world who aren’t as fortunate and don’t have the luxury of buying dresses in shops and stores, she said.

“We’re making them out of hearts and wanting to do it for them,” she said. What makes it special is “knowing that they can actually have something that they will like, something that they can wear and say, ‘I got this and it was made for me.’”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

To volunteer

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Dress A Girl Around the World Project, contact Suzanne Lofgren at: suzannewithdressagirl@gmail.com. To learn more about the project, check her blog at: www.sewdelightful.blogspot.com/.

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