We recently posted an article about sewing for charity and how to use your sewing hobby to give back to the community. Many of our readers share their thoughts and comments directly on the site in the comments section. Some write to me directly.
I have to say I was blown away when I received Donna's email. The work she is doing is just fantastic and I asked her for permission to share her inspiring letter with you all and she agreed. You can find more info about the charity Donna is working with called Hope Totes, HERE.
My name is Donna D., and I live in Stratford, Ontario Canada. This morning I was interested to read your email about sewing for charity, and I thought I would send along my sewing for a charity project.
In late November 2016, I began sewing Hope Totes. Hope Totes is a non-registered charity that gives personal care products to women in need, usually women living in shelters. When arriving at the shelters, the women usually have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Hope Totes gives them things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other personal care products. Last year Hope Totes were given out to women in shelters all across Canada.
My journey with Hope Totes all began with a dream if you can believe it. I live in a theatre town, Stratford is the home to the largest repertory theatre company in North America, and although this little city is home to 30,000 residents, during the course of the theatre season, almost half a million people visit this city to take in the plays. Of course, actors are needed, and it is one particular actor that started me down this road. One night in September of 2016, a group of us went to a local restaurant where some of the actors were holding a cabaret. One of those actors was named Heather McGuigan, the same Heather McGuigan who about ten or eleven years ago started Hope Totes. It was a fun evening filled with lots of music, laughter and good friends, and that I thought was all. However the last week of November on a Sunday night, I had a dream about Heather McGuigan and her Hope Totes. I had heard about Hope Totes and knew what they were for, but that was all I knew. I thought about that dream that whole week, and finally, on Friday I found Heather's website and emailed her.
In my email, I asked only about the actual totes. How many she used a year, how big were they, and what were they made of. The season had ended here, and Heather was then working in Halifax in a musical. She emailed me right back, and told me that she uses about three hundred totes a year, they are about 10″ x 12″, and she used either paper or plastic bags, but was looking for a source for fabric one. Well, I believe in signs and for me, there were four clear signs here, the first being that I had remembered the dream because I never remember dreams. The second was that Heather was looking for fabric totes. The third was that I had a large stash of fabric, yes I am a quilter/sewer, and just a few weeks earlier I had been looking through my stash thinking what will I ever do with all this fabric, I will never make it all up in my lifetime. The fourth for me was that Heather shares a name with my daughter, so all signs pointed to me that perhaps I should get involved somehow. I emailed Heather back and asked if I might make some totes for her, her reply came right back, asking how much they would cost. I replied that there would be no cost, and could I make up a couple of samples and send them to her so she could see them. She replied that she was standing in her rental kitchen crying she was so happy, and why didn't I make one and send her a picture. By Sunday I had the tote made and I sent the picture off to Heather, her reply, “they are wonderful, and I am once again standing in my kitchen crying, I am so happy”.
My original goal was 1,800 totes, but by February of 2017 I had all be depleted my stash, which by the way feels great, and then something wonderful happened, friends and friends of friends began arriving at my door with bundles of fabric, and because I had so much fabric I decided that I could make 2,400. Then a friend arrived with a carload of fabric and the goalpost was moved to 3,000. My final goal is 4,000 totes, and last week I finished tote number 3,150, so I am moving ever closer to my final goal.
This hasn't been a one-woman project, yes, I have sewn all the totes myself, but it would not have been possible without the kindness of many people, people donating fabric, and money to buy thread and lining, plus their encouragement.
After sewing all my stash, and fabric began arriving at my door, I decided that I would not keep one single piece of donated fabric for myself, although there was one beautiful piece of red fabric that I just loved, but I went right to my cutting table and cut it up into totes. I try to keep away from drab and dark fabrics because I think the women receiving the totes should have pretty ones to brighten their lives, so any fabric that I cannot use I give to a friend who sews quilt tops for Victoria Quilts for cancer patients.
I think when I reach the 4,000 tote mark, I will be very sad to see it come to an end, but I will also know in my heart that I was able in a small way to help 4,000 women. For the last two Christmases, my daughter Heather and I have filled twenty totes and donated them to a local shelter here in Stratford. Each year we have a Christmas party for our women friends and neighbors, and we ask that they not bring a hostess gift, but if they would like to bring along a personal care item for Hope Totes that would be appreciated. Last Christmas, we were able to fill each tote with seventeen personal care items, everything from toothpaste to a pair of warm socks, plus some chocolate, because everyone should have a little chocolate at Christmas. If I ever needed a reason to do this the look in the eyes of the manager at the shelter told me everything.
I wasn't sure if I should send this or not because in one way it is kind of like tooting my own horn, but then I thought perhaps you might pass the suggestion of totes along to your readers and they too might make a few totes for a local shelter. I am sending along a couple of pictures of the totes.
Thanks for your time, and thanks for your posting this morning.