The smile couldn’t be wiped from my face as I experienced seamstress hands help guide younger ones to push colorfully printed fabric through the sewing machine stitch by stitch. The low hum of needles pumping up and down was heard amongst the giggles of excitement in a small classroom of Centenary United Methodist Church on the fourth day Project Transformation’s summer program.
Fourteen 4th through 6th graders got to create their very own fabric pencil cases/sunglass holders with seven volunteers from Covenant United Methodist Churches’ Stitches of Hope Sewing Ministry.
One of the biggest aspects that I learned about Project Transformation when I was a Site Coordinator Intern at Oakcliff United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, four years ago, was that PT cannot operate without volunteers! They provide our college students with dinners five times a week, they help our kids sustain their reading skills by being a listening ear, and then sometimes our volunteers go above and beyond.
This year as the Program Quality Coach at Project Transformation in Memphis, I joined and photographed an afternoon activity sewing class that was full of this “above and beyond-ness”.
I witnessed some amazing women, who couldn’t contain their joy for the art, teach PT children a new-to-them practical and life-long skill.
These talented seamstresses prepared their five donated sewing machines in a small room of Memphis’ historic Centenary UMC. After their machines were equipped, they laid out patterned fabric squares, bright buttons, spools of colored thread and take-home informational packets about the sewing machine and how it works!
Upon first hearing about the project at hand, a couple boys were unenthusiastic and claimed, “sewing is for girls.” But the minute they stepped into the room with these seamstresses, the mood dramatically changed.
Mrs. Diane, the sewing ministry’s fearless leader, explained about the sewing process, the fun customization the skill allowed, and her experience in the industry. I watched the young boys’ eyes widen as she shared about famous men in the industry such as billionaire Michael Kors and fashion designer and rapper Kanye West.
One of the older boys shot up his hand in excitement, “Can I customize my jeans? Or maybe you can help fix the hole in my jacket Miss?”
Before we knew it, we had five boys ready to jump on the sewing machine and hand sew buttons on their pencil bags.
And the boy that was most apprehensive about the project? He was begging to practice on a second fabric square, because he said, “I want to make sure my pencil bag comes out perfect.” Everyone in the room left grinning ear to ear.
The boy who wanted his jacket mended? Well, Miss Carol happily obliged, ran his black Nike jacket through the machine, and the hole was fixed in less than five minutes.
Every day working at Project Transformation I find a reason to smile. Sometimes it’s stepping into something uncomfortable, like helping two kids who have a disagreement forgive each other and work it out. And sometimes it’s something like seeing experienced seamstresses share their passion for sewing and teach it to children.
On this special day, it was watching an enthusiastic child run up to a mirror so he could see his reflection while he held his new blue pencil bag with the red button he had hand sewn on, with help from his new sewing teacher.
What’s your reason to smile today?
Rebekah serves as a Program Quality Coach at three Project Transformation program sites in Memphis, Tennessee.