Labor of love

Cartersville Woman’s Club sews ‘sweet little dresses’ for girls in Africa

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For Brenda Worley, the online image of an African girl wearing a yellow-and-gray floral dress was a heartwarming sight. After sewing the garment in 2018, the Cartersville resident was delighted to see her dress’s wide-eyed recipient.

“This dress was a yellow-gray print complemented by yellow trim,” she said. “The dress closed over the shoulders with yellow grosgrain ribbon. It was made last September. I just loved the fresh, bright look of it, and it was something besides pink.”

“I was absolutely floored when I saw the post from the mission trip on Facebook. I recognized the dress immediately and teared up realizing that a dress that I had made with my very own hands was adorning such a lovely little girl.”

As the president of the 20-member Cartersville Woman’s Club, which is affiliated with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Worley is pleased to see her group’s members embrace their Little African Girls’ Dresses project. This year, the club is striving to sew about 200 dresses, the majority of which are being assembled by Martha Stone.

“So often projects that our club does for our international outreach community service involves making a donation because obviously, we cannot go to foreign countries to do service, but rely on international organizations to use our donations wisely,” Worley said. “This project gave us a hands-on way to send assistance.

“Sure we had to buy the fabric, but these dresses are crafted with love and prayers for every girl who wears them. We are so blessed to be able to share.”

During the project’s first year in 2018, eight Cartersville Woman’s Club members created 23 dresses. The garments were distributed to African girls during Crosspoint City Church’s mission trip.

The group’s 2019 dresses will be presented to Love Africa Mission and Orphan Aid, Liberia — a Cartersville-based nonprofit established by Daryl Roberts in 2008 — to take on their mission trips to Africa.

Serving as Crosspoint’s kids ministry coordinator, CWC member Wanda Spencer knows firsthand how a simple item, like these light-weight sundresses, can turn into a cherished gift of hope.

“As a Woman’s Club Member, there are so many opportunities to serve the local community and the world,” Spencer said. “Something that seems small to us, like sewing sweet little dresses, can be so impactful to someone who doesn’t have clothes to wear. As a woman participating on a mission trip, to see the life change within the communities can be overwhelming.

“You can’t communicate verbally because of the language barrier, but you don’t have to because the joy on the face of a mother or a little girl who has received a new dress speaks volumes. They immediately run and put on their new outfit so they can come back and show you what it looks like, the same way our kids would at Christmas. It’s heartwarming.”

Excited to see Stone’s passion for this project, club members are actively purchasing cloth and sending cut out pieces for her to sew. Consisting of complementing fabric for the garment and the trim, the size four to seven sundresses also feature a casing at the top containing a ribbon that will be later tied at the shoulders.

With her goal of 100 completed, she is aiming to sew 200 dresses this year, and a total of 500 by the end of 2020.
“Martha Stone has been an inspiration to us all, and we are amazed at the number of dresses she has completed,” Worley said. “The fact that she got neighbors and friends to donate fabric to the cause shows the merit of the project and her capabilities to inspire others.

“When I spoke with her about being a part of this story to bring attention to her accomplishment, she said, ‘I don't want any special recognition, because it takes a village.’ I was particularly touched by her neighbor who carved a wooden cross that is ready be made into a necklace. This shows that she is truly inspiring.”

Born and raised in Cartersville, Stone moved to Norwood in 2017 and is considered an inactive CWC member.
Sewing since high school, the 72-year-old is thrilled to be able to use her talents to enhance the lives of others.

“I love taking a plain piece of cloth and making something beautiful,” Stone said. “I have six granddaughters, so little girls are very special to me. I love the feeling you get when you get a new dress.

“For most of these little girls … [living] where missionaries will go, it will be their first and maybe only dress, so it has to be special. I love matching the fabrics, headbands and bows. I feel like I’m playing Barbies. No two dresses are alike. I have completed almost 200 dresses and each is different.”

As Stone noted, the dresses she is sewing will have a complementary headband with a bow, along with a wooden cross necklace that was hand-carved by her neighbor, Alan Johnson.

“My plan was to complete 500 dresses by the end of next year,” Stone said. “I now hope to exceed that goal.

“Half of my dresses will go to [Orphan Aid, Liberia],” she said, referring to the organization that operates education, deworming and feeding programs in Liberia. “We love Daryl Roberts and what he has made possible for these children. I’m so happy God has given me a talent to give back and help in a small way. Words cannot express the joy and passion I receive from this project. I know God will continue to provide fabrics for many, many more dresses.”

Charted in 1966, CWC meets the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in the Episcopal Church of the Ascension’s parish hall.

“The club was founded to provide a conduit for women to help the community,” Worley said. “Some of the big projects in our history have been assistance with the public library, newspaper recycling, hosting a Christmas shopping experience for very young children and the formation of green space in the city of Cartersville.

“Our parent organization, General Federation of Women's Clubs, sets forth a plan of work every two years and clubs are asked to complete volunteer projects in areas, such as international outreach, education and home life. In the past few years, we have sponsored fundraisers to benefit the Tranquility House Domestic Violence Center,” she said, adding this year’s Tranquility House benefit is a musical offering called Rock the House 2019, which will be presented Nov. 2 at the Cartersville High School Auditorium.

Joining the club in 1984, Worley enjoys the “sisterhood” that exists between members.

“It has given me a chance to meet, work with and count as friends [people] that I would have never met,” she said. “We work on projects, but we care for each other and are there when support is needed. There are no quotas on how many projects a member must be involved in.

“Our members are at different phases in their lives and everyone does whatever fits into their lives. Martha Stone is a great example of that.”

For more information about the CWC and its Little African Girls’ Dresses project, visit the club’s Facebook page “GFWC Cartersville Woman's Club” or call Worley at 678-899-7872 or the club’s membership chairman, Sharon Cannon, at 678-570-1339. Along with monetary donations, Worley shared the public can support their dress effort by contributing sewing materials, such as fabric, ribbon and thread.