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A case for volunteers

Eagle’s Trace residents sew patriotic pillowcases for veterans

Created date

November 22nd, 2011

Armed with coupons, Janet Marvin hit four Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft stores on July 5, looking for discounted Fourth of July fabrics. A few weeks earlier, members of the Community Outreach Committee at Eagle s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston where Janet lives, agreed to take on a new volunteer project making patriotic pillowcases for veterans at the nearby Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. I knew we would need a lot of fabric for the pillowcases, says Janet. And the best time to buy patriotic material is the day after the Fourth of July.

Reaching out

The Community Outreach Committee, now in its second year, started as an ad hoc committee of the Resident Advisory Council at Eagle s Trace. Like all clubs and committees at the West Houston community, residents lead this one as well. There was such a positive response from residents who wanted to make a difference in the larger community, says Pat Osborne, who agreed to chair the fledging committee. We realized that we had significant resources of time and talent that we could use to benefit others. The challenge, says Pat, is to choose projects that resonate with the majority of residents. When one of our committee members first tossed out the idea of making pillowcases from patriotic fabric to hand out at the VA Medical Center, we didn t know what sort of response we would get, she says. We set a goal of 70 pillowcases.

Step-by-step instructions

Janet, a committee member and talented seamstress, enlisted the help of several friends to wash the fabric, cut it out, and package it with directions. For two nights, members of the outreach committee sat in the living room of the Audubon Clubhouse handing out the packages to volunteers. The response was overwhelming, says Pat. We handed out all the material on those first two evenings. We even had people stop by and tell us they couldn t sew, but they would like to contribute money toward the cost of the fabric. Additional funds in hand, Janet set off once again to Jo-Ann s in search of more fabric. People just took to this project, says Pat. It was incredible.

Sew easy

Gail Holter, a prolific seamstress when her children were young, hadn t done much sewing for the past 25 years. I sent my sewing machine off to be serviced, thinking I would start sewing again, she says. I got my machine back the same day I learned of the pillowcase project. The pillowcase template called for a French seam, which I haven t sewn since I was in the seventh grade. Thankfully, it all came back to me. Gail contributed four pillowcases to the project. In all, 28 volunteers made over 150 pillowcases, more than doubling the initial goal. The pillowcase project turned out to be a great initiative because so many residents could participate, says Mary Kate Kell, pastoral ministries manager and volunteer coordinator at Eagle s Trace. Even those who couldn t sew were able to donate money or help prepare the fabric. Representatives from the Community Outreach Committee took the pillowcases to the staff at the VA hospital in October. The hospital staff handed out the colorful cases to patients on Veteran s Day. I think, at the end of the day it comes down to us wanting to do something nice for someone else, says Gail. If we accomplished that, then the project was a success.