Salem United Methodist Church

Dresses of Love

The Story of Dresses-with-Love

On Sunday, July 30th 2017, the UMW closed a mission to create dresses for children in impoverished areas.  It all began in 2012 when a member of the group had seen dresses made from pillowcases in a display in Berlin. The idea and a sample dress were presented at a meeting and after brief explanations, the ladies voted unanimously to make the project one of their missions.

Barbara Entwhistle, the woman in charge of the dresses on display in Berlin, was invited to make a presentation to our group.  She brought with her Melanie Metzger who had been in the Dominican Republic and had seen a need for this type of clothing for little girls. Barbara gave a demonstration for constructing the dresses and Melanie gave her personal testimony telling about how she came to be involved with the project. 

After a request went out to the congregation, donations of pillowcases - new and slightly used, bias tape, elastic, and thread poured in. The first Make-a-Dress Day was scheduled for November 10, 2012. Fourteen ladies came, some with their sewing machines, others measured, cut, and pinned.  By the end of the session seventeen dresses were finished.  Working at home through the winter, the ladies continued working on dresses so that by spring, the first Bless-the-Dresses Day was held with 111 dresses on display around the sanctuary.  Pastor Sally did a special Dedication and Blessing of the dresses. Casey Worth and Claire Holland modeled the dresses for us. A few days later, with Barbara and Melanie in attendance, all 111 dresses were packed in zip lock bags by size and squeezed into a suitcase that Melanie would take with her to Barahona, Dominican Republic.
Dresses of Love

Melanie, a nurse, along with her husband and five children was preparing to go the Dominican Republic to live permanently with the dream to build a school, an orphanage and provide medical care. The dresses would be channeled through Melanie who would let the girls select two or three dresses from those sent. This would probably be the first time the girls would have the opportunity to select a new dress. She sent back pictures of the little girls in her village wearing the very dresses we had so lovingly made.

Being inspired by our success, we scheduled another Make-a Dress Day for October 5, 2013 and another on October 25, 2014.  By the second Bless-the-Dresses Day on January 25, 2015, we had completed 130 dresses.  We also blessed 30 flip-flops, and shorts made from a tee shirt, donated by Sandy Gifford.

Dresses of Love
In the summer of 2013, 25 more dresses we sent to Rev. Tom and Beverly Brumbley for distribution in Haiti through the Evangelistic World Outreach.  Best Western International in Waynesboro, Virginia donated 48 white pillowcases after one of our ladies stayed in their hotel and happened to inquire of places she might find good, used pillowcases.

While we were making dresses, Melanie and her family had moved to the Dominican Republic.  However, due to her health problems they had to return to the United States.  She was scheduled to speak at our worship service on January 15, 2015, but that morning she had laryngitis and could not speak. Barbara Entwhistle filled in by reading Melanie’s message.

The fourth Make-a-Dress Day took place on June 16, 2016 with 211 dresses being completed.  Donna Clarke designed a way to make dresses using the bandana handkerchiefs and Sandy Gifford made several pairs of shorts for the boys from old tee shirts.  These dresses were blessed on July 17, 2016.

Dresses of Love
One of the unique things about our dresses is that no two of them were exactly alike.  Pillow cases usually come in pairs, but when the dresses were made there was always something different.  The straps on the two dresses might be of a different color or even the two straps on one dress might be different.  Some dresses were trimmed with ricrac, others with lace of eyelet.  Some had pockets, some did not. Some of the pockets contained a pair of girls’ panties, some did not. Some dresses were not even made from pillow cases.  Some of our seamstresses donated fabric from which the pillow case pattern was cut and then made into dresses.  In a couple of cases dresses were made from still-in- good- condition kitchen curtains. The dresses were made in different sizes: small, medium, large, extra-large, and a few made for tall girls using the king size pillow cases.  When the dresses were packed for shipping they were placed in zip lock bags by size. After Melanie had to return to the States, our dresses were taken to Berlin to Barbara Entwhistle who had the contacts with people traveling to the various destinations and would see that they were transported and distributed.

In March of 2017 Addie Mister spent her college spring break in Haiti.  When her grandmother heard Addie could take dresses, she was able to complete 27 for the orphanage.

The final Make-a-Dress Day took place on April 29, 2017.  Now, as the last of the dresses are blessed, this brings to a total of 587 dresses sent from Salem United Methodist Women to little girls in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. We thank God for the opportunity to clothe these children and ask God to continue to watch over them and bless them.
Dresses of Love

The UMW would like to thank all those people who made donations of pillowcases, elastic, bias tape, thread, toothbrushes, toothpaste and monetary contributions that allowed us to carry out this mission.  We especially thank those who came to the workshops, worked at home and assisted the project in any way: Pastor Brian Albert, Jan Aron, Barbara Browning, Donna Clarke, Jim Covington, Judy Davis, Pastor Sally Dolch, Barbara Entwhistle, Nancy Flynn, Bridget Foster, Sandy Gifford, Claire Holland, Sue Johnston, Audrey Leonard, Carolyn Merrick, Melanie Metzger, Coleen Mister, Ann Nichol, Meridith Parlett, Peggy Pilchard, Ann Price, Debbie Scott, Wimbrow, Casey Worth and Mollie Wright. Also, a special thank you to the unnamed seamstresses who were not members of Salem, but enjoyed contributing to our project.

Dresses of Love

Apologies to anyone whose name was inadvertently omitted. Please make Coleen Mister aware of the omission so it can be corrected in the history of the project.