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Sewing Bees supply handmade projects for the needy

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Brynn Carnesecca | Lehi Free Press

Nestled in the city of American Fork, the Sewing Bees are a hidden treasure. Meeting together weekly, around 20 “Bees” bring together their sewing talents to help families in Zimbabwe. These projects make a world of difference for individuals and communities in need. 

For over 23 years, the Sewing Bees have stitched and sent items to the African country. 

“We connected years and years ago with a professional group of European golfers who work with Zimbabwe. One of them served an LDS mission, and we contacted her. They started a charity and, because of her connection here, we became connected,” Marsha Skidmore said. “We started to send most of the projects we do with them. The group comes in the fall, and they ship our projects to Zimbabwe.” 

At the start, the Bees met in a local church and sewed whenever they could. Soon after, the project took on rapid growth. To accommodate the changing needs, the volunteers relocated to a large warehouse on Skidmore’s father’s property. After the recent passing of Skidmore’s parents, the Sewing Bees only have a few more months to continue using the facility. They are not certain where they will move afterwards, but they have a few potential options. 

The Sewing Bees create hundreds of items weekly. Quilts; outfits for kids; and baby kits complete with a blanket, soap and other necessities for a newborn are all made in-house. The process of creating the items is no small feat, requiring donations and many hours of labor. 

“First, we have to locate the fabric. A lot of it is donated and purchased by volunteers. We bring it here, trace the patterns and cut them out. Then, our volunteers sew it all together,” Skidmore explained. Over 20 sergers and sewing machines line the tables, and quilt stands can be found throughout the facility as well. Many of the Bees have been volunteering for over 20 years. 

The project is very special to the hearts of many volunteers. What began as a small organization has now helped countless people in Zimbabwe. 

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“It evolved from starting as a small group project. When you get involved in something, it really sinks into you and starts to be very meaningful,” Skidmore expressed. “When you see the pictures on the other side of kids, mothers and newborn babies receiving their gifted items, it makes you appreciate how much you have and how little others have. We are fortunate enough to be able to help other people with donations, labor and willingness from these women that have been coming for over 20 years.” 

Their efforts do not go unnoticed on either side of the donation process. New mothers and their babies are especially impacted. 

“The people in Zimbabwe are thrilled with the items they are getting. The women in Zimbabwe have to sometimes travel for days to get to a hospital or a birthing center. If they know that they will get a newborn kit for their babies with a blanket, nightgown, soap, a hat and booties, they are willing to travel and have their babies in a safe, healthy environment instead of in their village. It is an incentive for them to make sure they can have their babies in a safe place. They may have to stay there for days or weeks until their baby comes, but it is worth it for them. I think that is really awesome, and it means so much that they are able to wrap their little baby in a blanket,” Skidmore added. 

Receiving a brand new outfit is also a life-changing experience for the Zimbabwe children. 

“The kids will get an outfit and then in that container (we don’t provide this) the ladies will have purchased books, magazines, toys and donated wooden cars for them,” Skidmore said. “I love to see their faces when they are holding up their car, book or outfit. Someone that went over there said, ‘If you are a child and you have one outfit in a dresser, you have one more outfit than the kids in Zimbabwe have.’” 

The Sewing Bees welcome volunteers of all ages and skill levels.  The Bees meet every Monday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Youth groups are also welcome to visit the Sewing Bees and participate. The Bees also welcome monetary and fabric donations. For more information, visit www.justserve.org/sewingbeesofamericanfork or contact Marsha Skidmore via email at marshaskid@gmail.com.  

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