Texas Seamstress Shares Skill to Help Harvey Victims, Others

When Bernice Spell saw a flier for the charitable group Little Dresses for Africa, she quickly sewed almost 100 items of clothing for children in need on another continent.

The Facts reports after Hurricane Harvey, the Lake Jackson woman saw the same need in her own community.

Since the hurricane hit last year, Spell has gotten up every morning and sewed shirts, dresses, jackets, shorts and pants for children 4 to 6 years old. She takes a lunch break, sews until 10 p.m., and then watches television until she falls asleep, just to repeat the pattern the next day.

She completes about 10 items a week, she said. She then brings the clothes to Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Lake Jackson, where teachers take them and distribute them to children who lost their belongings during Harvey's floods, Spell said.

The clothes went to many Lake Jackson students at first, and now they are going to Sweeny, she said. It's a big task to clothe all of these children, but Spell said she doesn't need any assistance with sewing.

"It's my thing. I don't think anybody else enjoys sewing as much as I do," Spell said.

Sewing is Spell's favorite hobby, she said. She learned to sew when she was 13 and sewed all her children's clothes as they grew up, she said.

Spell enjoys sewing clothes for children because it means they'll get to wear something new that can't be bought in stores, she said.

As a child, Spell grew up without a father. Her family would often get donations of already-worn clothes, which made other children on the school bus make fun of her, she said. She would walk 3 miles to and from school to avoid the ridicule of her classmates, Spell said.

With her uniquely crafted articles of clothing made out of bright, colorful patterns, she hopes to ensure that less fortunate children in Brazoria County won't go through the same thing that she did, she said.

Plus, the fabric and money goes much further when she makes the clothes herself, Spell said.

"Anybody can buy clothes, but to make them special, you need to create," she said.

All she needs to sew the clothes is her sewing machine, fabric, buttons and thread, she said. She's had help with the fabric, as her Sunday school class at Chapelwood United Methodist Church donated $250 for her to buy material and other church members have given her leftover material, which she's used up by now.

"I mean tons of it, and it's all gone," Spell said.

Carol Ham is a friend of Spell's who considers her like family. She wasn't aware of Spell's sewing habit until she started doing it frequently for this ministry of hers, Ham said.

"Then I realized what and who she was doing it for, and thought that she wasn't going to quit anytime soon," Ham said.

She'll often support Spell's project with fabric that she finds at garage and estate sales, she said.

It occurred to her while reading a Reader's Digest article about real heroes that she truly knew one in Spell, since she constantly tries her best to create clothes for children in need, she said.

"The real heroes are those who work hard and serve selflessly," Ham said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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