Women sew clothing to be sent to the Philippines

JENNINGS — In 1993, a small group of women from the Jennings Church of Christ came together to sew quilts and curtains for a children’s home in Indiana.

Twenty-five years later and dozens of quilts later, the small group of women known as the Dorcas Group continue to meet twice a week to make dresses and other handcrafted items to help children in the Philippines and others in need.

The group was named for Dorcas in Acts 9:36, “who was always doing good and helping the poor,” said Joyce Broyles.

The group began after church members Mary Meche and Loyce Kebodeaux suggested they make quilts and matching curtains for a children’s home in Indiana. Since then, it has evolved into making clothes for orphans, lap robes, throws and bibs for local nursing homes and flannel sleep pants for the homeless.

“It took a lot of time and work to do the quilts, so we decided to start making outfits for children,” Broyles said.

When Kebodeaux and Broyles’ brother-in-law, Bob Morrow went to the Philippines on a mission trip, he learned of the need for clothing there, so the group shifted its purpose to making clothing for the people in the Philippines.

Since then the ladies have averaged about 500 garments a year, including dresses for women, girls and babies and play shorts and tops for children.

“Sometimes I think we’d rather sew than eat, but I have a blast doing it,” Roberta Koll said. “I get fulfillment in enjoying doing something for others. I am a widow so it gives me something to do.”

Boxes of clothing, along with religious materials, hygiene products and snacks are sent to church leaders in the Philippine islands every three months.

“What pleases us is that the ministers give the garments away and never charges the people anything,” Broyles said.

A handful of women — including Broyles, Kebodeaux, Koll, Bonnie Langley and Judy Lejeune — remain the core group.

They meet 8:30 a.m-4:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Thursday at the church to pin and cut patterns from spare fabric and sew tiny outfits.

“I’m sure Mary (Meche) never dreamed how her suggestion would evolve,” Broyles said. “God has blessed and enlarged our work because we do it for His glory, not ours. He gave us the talent and others have donated the materials, and we just go with it. For over 25 years now, we’ve enjoyed it. Since we all love to sew, it isn’t work to us.”

Langley, who has been part of the group for two years, said it is a fulfilling project to be part of.

“I heard what they were doing and wanted to be a part of doing something good for someone else,” Langley said. “I wanted to be a blessing to others.”

Lejeune joined the group because of her love for sewing.

“I love to sew and didn’t have anyone to sew for,” Lejeune said.

The weekly sewing sessions are now the highlight of her week.

The ladies have an assembly line of sorts.

Broyles usually selects a pattern, matches it with fabric, adds a note that tells which size and pattern view is desired, and places it in a plastic bag on a shelf. Koll then selects a bag and cuts the garment out. She averages cutting out from 4-6 garments each day she works.

Koll puts the cut out garment back into its bags and puts the bag in a box labeled “cut out, ready to sew.” The “seamstress” then selects a bag and sews and presses the garment before labeling its size and hanging it on a rod to display.

Most of the dressmakers are able to complete at least two garments per working day, more if the pattern is simple, Broyles said.

The ladies used to buy the fabric, patterns and notions themselves. After word spread about the projects, the group began receiving donations from women who no longer sew, fabric shops that closed and leftover materials from yard sales.

The ladies also used prize money from fair entries to buy sewing machines. There are now six sewing machines in the Dorcas room, each on its own desk with each seamstress having their own station to work, Broyles said.

Besides garments, the group makes quilts. Kebodeaux is the one who does the actual quilting. She makes many of the quilt tops, but Broyles helps with many of the tops.

“I can make two or three quilts a month, it all depends on how complicated they are,” Kebodeaux said.

Kebodeaux, who said she likes putting the pieces together like a puzzle, recently made a Sudoku quilt to resemble the number puzzle. She hand stitches each quilt.

“I use to watch my mother quilt, then after I got married I decided I could do that,” she said. “After so many years of practicing it got better.”

A sign at her work station reads, “When Life Gives You Scraps, Make A Quilt.”

Some of the large quilts go to family and friends or others in need, while the baby quilts go to hospitals or to policemen to carry in their patrol units for accidents involving children.

The group’s stitchery has also landed in the laps of residents at local nursing homes and homeless shelters.

The group also donates sewing machines that they don’t need, along with patterns, fabrics and sewing notions to help women in Liberia learn a trade to help their families.””

Roberta Koll works to cut a pattern from fabric donated to the Jennings Church of Christ sewing group.

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