Today my family is participating in the Worldwide Day of Service to kick-off the Christmas season – a challenge to do ANYthing for ANYone – you choose. I have this awesome neighbor named Kay. She is involved with so many humanitarian and charitable donations and she’s SO good at helping other people contribute. These were a bunch of dolls that were assembled and stuffed at a church humanitarian day few weeks ago. I got to stitch up the final closing seams. These are going to a Native American reservation for Christmas. So simple, but always feels good to help a good cause.
I’m not going to lie. 2016 has been an anxiety-filled year for me. (US politics was definitely a contributor.) I think the thing that has been the most unsettling for me is seeing the deterioration in the way people treat each other. I have no trouble with differences of traditions, beliefs, preferences – but I am troubled by the lack of willingness to try to understand where another person gets their point of view, or at the very least, respect the individual, even if you don’t see eye to eye. I’m a pretty strong believer that we are brothers and sisters and that we’re all different for a reason so that we can learn from and support each other.
The thing that brings me peace of mind and relief from those feelings of anxiety is doing something for someone else. I know that I can’t change global issues – but I can make a difference to someone – and usually, that person makes a difference to me too.
One of my favorite Instagram feeds is Do Something For Nothing. It is based on the idea that we can all do something for someone, using the talents and gifts that we have. It was started by Joshua Coombs who visits with people who live on the streets in London and gives them a free haircut. The stories he shares are so touching, and the thing that always means the most to the folks he helps, is that someone would just stop and listen. I think the offering of human dignity means the most.
This has made me think – what could you and I do, using our own talents and gifts to make someone’s day a little better? I know that this is an incredibly busy time of year, but think of the difference that small acts of love could do to change the mood – even if it’s just our own mood – and remind us that “Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
And so with that in mind, since most of you who stop by this blog are a quilty/fabricy/sewy sort, and knowing what a giving bunch you have been in the past, I thought I’d pull together a list of ideas and charities where you can make a difference.
If you’d like to start with your own community, check local women’s abuse shelters, homeless shelters, hospitals, etc and ask what they need most. Carewear.org will help you find a local hospital in your area in need of handmade donations.
If you’re looking for places to Donate Fabric check out this post from Sew Mama Sew.
Serving with Smiles is a Humanitarian organization that empowers kids to help serve. They can always use fabric and batting donations for blankets, bags, and quilt.
Many local Quilts of Valor chapters will gladly take quality red, white, and blue fabric.
Check with a local Quilt Guild. Guilds frequently head up charity projects. You can find your local quilt guild using this list of world wide traditional quilt guilds here and local Modern Quilt Guilds here and ask them if they’re looking for any donations.
Little Dresses for Africa – pillowcase dresses
Cases for Smiles – Donate a pillowcase for children with cancer
Enchanted Makeovers provides for women and children in shelters. They take pillowcases, dolls, super-hero capes, crocheted blankets
Dolls of Hope delivers handmade stuffed animals to children around the world.
Project Night Night – needs new blankets for Homeless children
Quilts of Valor – quilts donated to men and women who are military veterans. Will also take fabric/batting donations. (Contact your local chapter.)
Bags of Love – needs quilts, bags, burp clothes, hats, doll blankets, etc. Will also take fabric donations.
Days for Girls – in need of sewn feminine hygiene kits
Sarah Craig hosts a Hands 2 Help Quilt challenge every year. Follow her blog for more upcoming information for this year’s challenge – especially if working with a group helps your motivation.
One cause that has unfortunately become a meaningful one for me is a result of 6 close friends diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year. SIX! It’s been sobering. Most of you probably have someone you love who’s dealt with, or is dealing with breast cancer. Melly Sews has a great pattern for this camisole for mastectomy patients. A friend (who is my age) who went through a double mastectomy this year, mentioned how much she wishes she’d known about these earlier. Me too.
Also, check out my Sew Goodness page that I continually update with more specific needs and causes to help.
If making something is not feasible for you at this time, consider a donation or some Christmas shopping from an organization that helps victims of abuse and the sex trade regain their dignity and self-worth
Sacred Sewing Rooms teaches women and children in shelters useable sewing skills
Here are more of my tips for pacing yourself when it comes to charitable sewing as well as making sure the charity you are donating to actually needs the items you want to give. (Great article here about crafting for charity.)
Make sure the items you are making and donating are actually getting in the hands of people who need them. I’ve tried to only list charities that have a proven record for using and distributing the donated items. But check their actual needs and materials specifications so that you don’t waste any of your or their valuable time.
I know it’s not always feasible to try and make a full quilt or take on a big project at this time of year.
But what if we all made one pillowcase or pillowcase dress?
Or donated some of our excess fabric to someone who could use it?
Or gave someone an extra hug and 5 minutes of our time just to listen?
The message in this video sums it up for me. It doesn’t matter if you are a person of faith, or just looking for a way to be a force for good, finding ways to listen with love is a wonderful way to to make life better for yourself and those around you. None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something.
If you are aware of other great causes and resources, please leave them in the comment section!
POST EDIT: Some have asked about the dolls in the first picture. They are a fast, simple way to make a bunch of items quickly, and a good way to use up extra fabric. Trace the doll template on the front of the fabric. Place two pieces wrong sides together and sew the doll together right on the traced line, leaving an opening in one of the legs for stuffing. Cut out the shape of the doll with pinking shears, leaving about 1/2″ seam allowance. Stuff the doll and sew up opening. Tie ribbon around the neck or sketch a simple face. The possibilities are endless. This is a great project for involving kids or those with minimal sewing experience.