Volunteers at Bridgeway Community Church in Phoenix dismantle the donated wedding dresses with scissors and seam rippers, taking care to preserve the lace, appliqués and tiny seed beads.
They cut patterns, sort through rich satins, silks and muslins, and remake wedding dresses into what looks like doll clothes.
It’s easier to think of them like that.
About three years ago, Joann Cooper told Debbie Sinfield about a similar project in Michigan, where volunteers transformed wedding dresses.
“We can do it here,” Sinfield said. Neither of the two retired nurses sewed, so they recruited a third friend who did, Yvonne Leake.
The three women started a non-profit group they called “Sew Sweet Angel Gowns”, which now has 50 volunteers.
The dresses they create are intended for babies who are stillborn or who die soon after birth. For the girls, the volunteers decorate with lace, appliques and tiny seed beads. For boys, the dresses are simple, with a waistcoat.
“It’s just the purity of it,” Sinfield said. “We want them to be in something white and pure as they go to Heaven.”
The number of dresses in each dress varies depending on the size, number of layers and length of the train. Since September 2017, volunteers have made nearly 2,500 dresses.
Gowns are shipped free to hospitals in Arizona and nationwide.
Volunteers sew at home and at monthly church meetings, becoming friends. Each finished dress reminds them why they are there.
“Once they think about where it’s going,” Sinfield said, “it feels heavy.” There are tears.
Decades ago, Sinfield miscarried. She understands that no one knows what to say or do. At such times, nurses can offer these gowns. They tell Sinfield how much the parents appreciate him.
“It is important for families to know that someone else has thought of them and prayed for them,” she said. ” They are not alone.
To donate or volunteer: sewsweetangelgowns.org.
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