Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Using Our Talents and All That Fabric

I love this story posted in The Charlotte Observer written by Dannye Romine Powell. Doesn't the end quote sum up how we all feel?

Stitching frothy bits of beauty for Haiti's girls

Johnnie Hayes and her busy sewing machine are brightening lives.

Dannye Romine Powell
Dannye Romine Powell writes on life in Charlotte and the Carolinas for the Local section of The Charlotte Observer.
A little lace here. A row of ribbon there.
And Johnnie Hayes, age 91, if you please, is off and running.
Since the earthquake in Haiti last January, Johnnie has designed, sewn and dispatched 115 adorable outfits - most of them dresses with matching ruffled panties - to the little girls of Haiti.
She has a dozen more pressed and ready to go.
"Imagine being a mother," she says, "and not having something pretty to dress your little girl in."
Call it a labor of love. You'd be right on the money.
Call it doing God's work. Bingo on that one, too.
But sewing - and designing these sunshine-fresh dresses - is what happens to make Johnnie's heart sing.
"Sewing is my thing," she says. "I can hardly wait to get up in the morning."
She starts working at 8 a.m. and stops at 3 p.m., to watch "Judge Judy." ("I've never heard anyone so mean.")
Johnnie doesn't sew at night, and she doesn't sew on Sunday. ("I do knit on Sundays," she confesses.)
She has been married to John Hayes for almost 72 years. They have four grown children - three daughters and a son.
For more than a quarter of a century, Johnnie worked in alterations at Montaldo's on North Tryon Street. During her later years there - she retired in 1982 - she headed the department.
She calls those the store's glory years, when movie stars from Joseph Cotten to Clint Eastwood brought their wives in to shop, when hand-painted clouds graced the ceiling, when the doorman sprayed fragrance on the sidewalk in front of the store.
But Johnnie's love of pretty things started earlier, growing up in Waxhaw.
"My mother was prissy," she says. "If she didn't have money for rouge, she'd wet a piece of red paper and rub the color on her cheeks."
Johnnie herself had long curls and enjoyed pretty clothes, which she grew up thinking were important to anyone's self-esteem.
Until the earthquake, she made quilts to raise money for the building fund at Central Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. She showed me photos. Gorgeous creations.
But quilts were getting too heavy to work on, she says.
When the earthquake hit, she thought of all the little Haitian girls who were without.
Don't think these handmade dresses go unappreciated.
Here's a card from Carrie Evans, a former minister at Central Steele Creek, who volunteers in Haiti and delivered the latest batch of Johnnie's creations.
"There are no words to share the emotions of handing a child a brand new dress sewn with so much love.... The looks on the mothers' faces as they picked up their children from school were priceless. I only wish you could have heard the children chant in their beautiful Haitian accents: Thank you."
The note went on to say that for many of these children, Johnnie's handmade dresses are the only new articles of clothing they will ever receive.
'I want the children to feel pretty and feminine, she says, "and I don't care if they get out in the mud and play. Let them be children."
You must feel so - I'm reaching for the right word - useful, I say.
No, Johnnie says. Humble. Humble that she can keep helping.
Does she foresee a time when she might not be able to sew?
She gives me a look of spunk-laced surprise.
"If I'm working on something when I die," she says, "throw it in the coffin, and I'll finish it."

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/02/01/2026564/stitching-frothy-bits-of-beauty.html#disqus_thread#ixzz1K1CQc0lK

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