East Grand Lake area sewing group on a mission to make dresses for Haiti

6 years ago

DANFORTH, Maine — Children in Haiti will now have a fresh supply of dresses and shorts thanks to the efforts of a group of women from the East Grand Lake area.

Dorcas Sewing Sisters, a group of about 12 women in their 70s and 80s, made 124 homemade dresses that were sent to girls at the House of Christ Orphanage in Haiti. The group also made shorts for boys.

Many of the handmade dresses also come with a matching doll. (Courtesy of Janet Cronkite)

The concept began with Janet Cronkite, a resident of Etna who has a summer camp on East Grand Lake. Cronkite said she came up with the idea back in the fall of 2016 after reading a Readers’ Digest article about poverty levels in Haiti.

“It touched my heart so deeply,” she said. “I approached my church group (Soul Sisters) at the Calvary Baptist Church in Pittsfield and we started it.”

In May of 2017, Cronkite was talking about the project to her friends and neighbors at camp, and they quickly got on board, creating their own group in the greater-Danforth area called Dorcas Sewing Sisters — taking their name from the scripture.

“A lot of us are seniors and this has given us a new purpose,” Cronkite said.

Each dress comes with hair bands to match the dresses, and many also include a small, homemade doll in a matching dress for the child.

Lydia Preston of Danforth has been one of the driving forces for the East Grand Lake group, sewing many dresses on her 100-plus year old Singer treadle sewing machine that her mother, Lydia Noyes, purchased in the 1960s.

The group meets twice a month at the Danforth Baptist Church for sewing parties, but the bulk of the work takes place in each person’s home or camp. Two weeks after sending their latest batch of dresses, more than two dozen new ones already have been made.

“It’s become almost non-stop,” Preston said of her sewing. “We just sent this bunch of dresses and we are already working on our next batch.”

As word of the group has spread, individuals have come forward to offer either financial support or material for new dresses. Cronkite said a woman in her upper 80s from Millinocket approached her group in Pittsfield and donated an entire carload of fabric for the cause.

Maine Central Institute donated $500 to help with shipping costs for the Pittsfield group and the Danforth Vacation Bible School recently presented a check for $330 to the East Grand Lake group to help.

“We’re excited to get the word out so that others can see the need and get involved if they want to,” Preston said. “When you see something that needs doing, we do it. Regardless.”

“We pray, and the Lord has led us to this cause,” Cronkite added. “We went in faith that this (project) was going to work. I like to think that we are making a small difference in our little corner of the world.”

To donate to the cause, contact the group’s secretary, Priscilla Knight at 448-2994.