Dress a Girl Around the World

Julie Schechtman displays two of the dresses she has made for Dress a Girl Around the World.

EDGEWOOD, Iowa — Not all angels wear wings. An Iowa organization whose mission is to sew and distribute dresses to girls in need around the world is proof that sometimes angels can be found sitting at sewing machines or cutting out dress patterns.

Julie Schechtman, a parishioner of St. Mark Catholic Church in Edgewood, is an Iowa ambassador for Dress a Girl Around the World. She has organized a dress-making workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at St. Mark’s Parish Hall, 203 S. Locust St.

In addition to making dresses, attendees will hear from Rachel Eggum Cinader, founder of the organization that is based in Forest City.

Schechtman has sewn for Dress a Girl Around the World for 10 years, but she became an ambassador in March.

“I’ve always liked to sew,” she said. “I felt compelled to help these girls in poor countries. The goal is to give every girl in a poor country a dress to wear. They may go from wearing rags or torn T-shirts to suddenly having a pretty dress that makes them feel special and loved.”

As an ambassador, it is Schechtman’s responsibility to teach others how to make the dresses and answer questions. She then collects the dresses and sends them to Forest City for distribution around the globe.

“People from other churches and missionary groups will take 300 dresses at a time with them when they go to other countries,” she said. “They hand-deliver the dresses to make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.”

The dresses are made in sizes that range from small to extra large and are tied at the shoulders, allowing a girl to wear the dress as she grows by simply adjusting the tie strap. In addition, dresses must be made of 100% cotton.

“These are dresses that are washed over rocks or in wash basins and not in machines,” Schechtman said. “Cotton is the only fabric that will stand up to that.”

Dresses also have a Dress a Girl Around the World insignia sewn in front.

“The insignia was introduced last year to discourage human trafficking,” Schechtman said. “Would-be abductors will see the label and shy away from these girls. The label tells them these girls are being cared for under a Christian-based organization that is teaching them about the word of God and teaching them about self-respect, dignity and love.”

Since beginning in 2009, Dress a Girl Around the World has sent a total of 1 million dresses to 81 countries.

Schechtman says anyone who comes to the workshop can help.

“If you can sew a straight line, you can make a dress,” she said. “If you can’t sew, you can iron or help in other ways.”

The goal is to complete 20 to 30 dresses by the end of the workshop.

The organization also accepts monetary donations. Checks can be made out to the organization and given to Schechtman or sent to Hope 4 Women International, P.O. Box 14 Forest City, IA 50436.

“This is very rewarding,” Schechtman said. “My heart goes out to these little girls. When I sit there and sew, I think how happy a dress will make someone and how much pride it will give her knowing someone loves her and that she has something new.”

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