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UM Students Make Dresses for Young Girls in Need

Hannah Bosworth, a freshman theatre arts major from Coronado, California, sews a dress for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church’s Little Dresses Ministry as part of her Introduction to Costumes for the Stage class at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Several University of Mississippi theatre arts students are spending the end of the semester making a difference by sewing dresses that will be distributed to young girls in need.

Donna Buckley, instructional assistant professor of costume technology, has been teaching students the basic techniques of sewing in THEA 272: Introduction to Costumes for the Stage so they learn the process of how to design a costume.
Buckley said she’s always wanted to participate in a sewing outreach program and when she found out about the Little Dresses Ministry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, she knew she wanted to get her students involved.
“I saw this as a great opportunity for students to participate in a service project,” Buckley said. “Students tend to get so involved in their own little world, so this allows them to see a need and make a difference for others.”
The Little Dresses Ministry is an ongoing effort of the church to provide clothing to less-fortunate children around the world and in the poorest counties of Mississippi. Buckley heard about the opportunity through Leslie Banahan, UM assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and a member of the church.
“I read about and participated in a similar ministry in Tupelo, and as a lifelong collector of fabric, thought I could put my fabric stash to good use,” Banahan said. “Turns out, many women at St. Peter’s had similar fabric stashes, so we got together and began sewing.”
The church has been making dresses for almost five years and has distributed more than 300 pieces of new clothing to young children.
The sewn dresses, made of cotton or cotton-blend fabric and adorned with embellishments such as ribbons, buttons and lace, go to the Mississippi Delta and several foreign countries, including Honduras, Haiti and Nigeria. Volunteers also make simple shorts for young boys.
“Some of our volunteers have been fortunate to personally deliver the dresses and shorts to children both in Mississippi and abroad,” Banahan said. “The photos show smiling, proud, happy children twirling in their new clothes. This ministry has been a true joy.”
Buckley picked out several fabrics to allow her students an opportunity to add their own design to the effort, which is part of their final project for the course. The class will donate more than 20 dresses to the ministry.
“I strongly feel that it’s beneficial for students to help people in less-fortunate situations,” she said. “It helps them grow as individuals when they can help others.”
Gabrielle Quintana, a freshman theatre arts major from Marietta, Georgia, has enjoyed learning in this course and using her knowledge to help others.
“I think it’s fun and it’s such a wonderful experience to be able to apply what you learn for a good cause,” Quintana said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other better, and my classmates and I have really bonded over this project.”
Buckley encourages anyone who wants donate a half-yard or more of cotton fabric to contact her at dabuckle@olemiss.edu. She plans to continue this effort with her costume class every semester.
Anyone who would like to become involved in this project can contact Leslie Banahan at lwb@olemiss.edu.

Staff Report
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