Fort Pierce 'Sewing Ladies,' Missionary Flights International deliver new clothes to Haitian children – TCPalm

Jeanette McLaughlin’s love for sewing is undeniable.
On any given day, there’s a good chance her Fort Pierce living room looks more like a seamstress’ studio than a place to watch television, but McLaughlin wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every other week for the past five years, the retiree has gathered with other retired women to sew clothes for children in Haiti and other Caribbean islands where brand new clothing is scarce.
“I knew that we could fill a niche because it is so desperately poor there that many times the children do not have clothes and if they do, they might have one shirt that’s old, dirty and full of holes,” said McLaughlin, who has seen the need up close.
Before retiring in Fort Pierce, McLaughlin and her husband ran a Haiti orphanage for nine years. She knew her job wasn’t quite done after they left.
But it wasn’t until her husband began volunteering at Missionary Flights International — a Fort Pierce Christian based nonprofit that repairs equipment and takes mission trips to the Caribbean — she discovered how she could help children in Haiti right from her living room in Florida.
“I thought while the men are at MFI fixing planes or doing other things, the women could be doing something, too,” McLaughlin said. “So I started a sewing group where everyone could have a contribution.”
More:Missionaries evacuating unrest in Haiti land at Treasure Coast International Airport
In the past five years the group, which is known as “The MFI Sewing Ladies,” has sewed more than 1,800 garments such as shorts, skirts and dresses, for children throughout the Caribbean.
“It’s a good feeling knowing that you’re serving God and sending clothing to the poorest of the poor and you know that it will get there because MFI will deliver it,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a small way, but it might be something that a kid remembers their whole life, that they got a brand new outfit.”
While some missionaries deliver used clothes to villages or orphanages on the islands, McLaughlin and her friends prefer to create new pieces.
“Women in our generation learned how to sew and we would like an outlet where we can use our creative ability to sew something nice,” McLaughlin said. “We use this as a hobby and creative niche, it’s like a quilting program and we like to put out a pretty product.”
For Lee Harris, the sewing group is a godsend.
“This has just been the best thing that I’ve gotten involved in,” said Harris, who joined a year after it started. “It’s a good reason to get up in the morning.”
Being a sewer for most of her 70 years, Harris is happy she can use her love and gift to help others one stitch at a time.
“It was just a natural fit and to know that the outfits are going to children who need it the most is so rewarding,” Harris said. “I’ve never been to Haiti and I don’t ever expect to go to Haiti, but I can send something to Haiti.”
Although it doesn’t take much to be charitable, Missionary Flights International’s volunteer coordinator, Sarah Smith, thinks the sewing group’s clothing can have an impact in these children’s lives.
“The joy on their faces show their appreciation,” Smith said.
“Getting a new set of clothes is a huge blessing,” she added. “The children leave the tags on the shirts until they don’t stick anymore, like a badge on honor, to prove they are wearing new clothes.”
MORE: Carol Laurent has been dedicated volunteer for 17 years at Caring Children Clothing Children
In addition to clothing, the women also make pencil bags, Christmas bags and layettes, which are distributed to mothers of babies kept in the high-risk unit at a Port-au-Prince hospital.
The women depend on donations of cash, fabric (preferably cotton) and sewing machines and say they welcome additional volunteers to help sew. If you’re interested, call Missionary Flights International at 772-462-2395. For more information, visit https://www.missionaryflights.org.


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