LAKE WYLIE — Although the weather was right for an afternoon on the lake, a group of women found a way to sew their own fun indoors.
Wanda Montgomery and members of Bethel Baptist Church Women’s Mission Union gathered last week at her lake home, which happens to be the church’s former community center, for a final work session making dresses to be sent to girls in Africa.
“This has been a lot of work but a lot of fun,” said Wanda Montgomery.
The group has been working on the dresses in sizes 4 to 10 for about a month, two days a week and more.
“We enjoy being together and working on these things,” said Sue Holcombe from behind a sewing machine. “The Lord tells us we’re supposed to help people less fortunate and that’s what we do.”
Clara Parrish, 87, the church’s oldest surviving member, said she couldn’t stand to think little girls didn’t have clothing to cover themselves.
“We think about our girls and it just touched all of our hearts and here we are,” she said. “We have just had a ball.”
Montgomery initiated the “pillowcase dress” project after seeing them on Pinterest.
“Each year we look for different mission projects,” Montgomery said of the WMU. “We’ve made 120 dresses, and we’re just as proud of ourselves as can be.”
The project, which indeed uses fabric from pillowcases as well as bought and found fabrics, will be completed this week.
“Our purpose is to share our blessings, and this is a small way we can share the gospel and share Christian love,” Montgomery said. “It’s just that simple.”
Monique Boekhout of Lake Wylie, founder of Kenya Orphanage Project, will take the dresses with her when she leaves for Africa on Thursday. KOP supports about 31 students in high school and four in college, having taken them from the slums to school to higher education and training.
“It’s about breaking the cycle of poverty,” Boekhout said.
Boekhout will be in Kenya to finalize setting up a vocational college and possibly a “full blown” mission project, “and, of course, to visit with the kids.” The dresses will go to children at House of Hope, an orphanage of 160 boys and girls ages 2 to 17, and nearby villages.
“I think it’s wonderful when local churches and groups get involved in KOP with gestures of love,” said Boekhout, who founded the nonprofit 10 years ago. “Knowing a group of ladies in the U.S. care, that’s the message I’m going to send across.”
Boekhout will take as many dresses as she can fit in her suitcase and ship the rest in a 40-foot container filled with donations from Lake Wylie community drives, as well as medical supplies. Shipping costs are paid for mainly through yard sale profits.
“It’s something I could not do without the support of the community, and Lake Wylie is a very generous community,” Boekhout said.
The Bethel Baptist congregation is a reflection of this. Montgomery said church members have helped by providing fabric and trim, as well as making financial contributions.
“It’s been a churchwide project,” Montgomery said.
It’s not the only project WMU is working on now.
“We have as many as seven or eight projects going at the same time,” Montgomery said.
WMU will soon deliver about 70 teddy bears to Clover Police Department, so “if a child is going through a traumatic experience officers have a stuffed animal to give them to hold on to.”
Other projects include working with Palmetto Pregnancy Center, Children’s Attention Home, Clover Area Assistance Center, sending boxes to soldiers, and Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoebox project.
“I find it rewarding to help others and share the gifts God has given me,” Montgomery said.
The group is continuing to make more dresses for an Appalachian project in the spring.
Bethel Baptist Church is located at 6031 Charlotte Hwy., York, near Lake Wylie. Call 803-631-0072 or visit visitbethel.org for information about the church. For information about KOP, visit kenyaorphanageproject.org.