Octogenarian revels in Little Dresses for Africa sewing project


Following a passion she likens to eating potato chips, Walla Wallan Jane Samples has taken to her sewing machine as a kid to a candy store while embracing a project dear to her heart.

After reading a newspaper story about Little Dresses for Africa, Jane, nearly 86, was hooked. “A lady in Wisconsin started this and it has spread across the country. They are sent to missionaries to distribute in poverty-stricken places on the African continent. It involves making small dresses for young girls in third-world countries,” she said.

There’s really little for these kids in Africa, with few resources to address the poverty, she added.

The non-profit Christian organization online at www.littledressesforafrica.org/ says it distributes the simple dresses made from pillowcases through African orphanages, churches and schools in 43 nations “to plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy!”

Even novice sewers can make the easy pattern, which has been around since the pioneer days.

The hem and sides of the cases are already in place. They “are often sitting unused on shelves in closets all across the country.”

With just a few sewing steps, they make bright sundresses aptly suited to the hotter climate. But pillowcase dresses are just a suggestion. Any simple pattern can be used.

Littledressesforafrica.org has received more than 1.5 million small frocks donated from all 50 U.S. states, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Since early fall, Jane has completed more than 40 dresses and has five more cut out and ready to go. She makes sleeveless jumpers with a front and back, lined at the top and embellished with rickrack, buttons and other furbelows.

“A little bit of my heart goes with each dress and I try to picture the girl that gets each one. Both of my daughters (Deb Simon of Walla Walla and Mary Kay Vandenberg of Redmond, Wash.) bought me a fancy new sewing machine last year and they have contributed fabric, thread, buttons (and more) and a gift card from (Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Store)!”

She stocks up on whatever she sees, she said. It takes about 11/2 yards of fabric and averages $5 per dress. Deb and Mary Kay have also been supplying their mom with material and notions.

It makes gift-giving easy for them now as it’s been a challenge about “what to give mom.” Christmas brought a bounty of fabric and other items for Jane’s use.

The retired medical office manager professed not to be a big sewing buff in years past. She sewed off and on for many years, crafting mainly decorative pillows, table runners and the like.

Until now. Her computerized Singer Stylist “can do just about everything imaginable,” and she has a lot to learn, she said.

She lived and worked in the Puget Sound area, including as a receptionist at Issaquah Medical Clinic for 10 years and as office manager at Northwest Cardiology Clinic in Seattle for 15 years until retiring in 1991.

Then she and Mary Kay’s mother-in-law toured Asia for six weeks. Seven years ago, at the invitation of Deb and husband, Dr. Richard “Dick” Simon, Jane moved to the Walla Walla Valley.

Her grandchildren include Michael and Anna Simon and Brett and Jay Vandenberg and she has a great-grandson, Carter Vandenberg.

Jane said this project would be a great one for other individuals and groups. She can be reached at 53ladyjane27@charter.net for more information.

Dresses can be sent directly to Little Dresses for Africa, 24614 Curtis Drive, Brownstown, MI 48134.

McLoughlin High School’s Crimson and Black Choir trekked 284 miles to Salem to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” during opening ceremonies March 14 in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Singers in the select choir also visited the state capitol building with Mac-Hi choir director Melissa Cunnington. Melissa also teaches music at Ferndale and Freewater Elementary schools.

“It was exciting to see the students in the Crimson and Black Choir this morning as they sang for the Oregon House,” said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner. I am proud of the way they represented McLoughlin High School and the citizens of Milton-Freewater.”

Crimson and Black Choir performs throughout the community during the year. In 2012, the choir placed third in state choir competition, the first time they’ve placed at the state level. This spring, they plan to perform at several New York City venues, including the Center for Performing Arts and USS Intrepid Air and Space Museum.

“It was a treat to see kids from east of the mountains showing Oregon’s legislators what the best and brightest can do,” added Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, Oregon House Republican Leader.

“What a great privilege for us to have The Crimson and Black join us in the Capitol today to sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ Rep. Smith is lucky to have them as his constituents,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek D-Portland. “We look forward to their next visit.”

A video of their performance and commentary from Smith is online at bit.ly/XFCAlE.

Amanda Ewoniuk, Prospect Point Elementary School PTA co-president, coordinated the school’s Art Night March 14 in conjunction with Carnegie Picture Lab.

Students each had two works of art to display, one inspired by what they learned from a presentation about Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden, and another piece called The Dot, Amanda said.

For the latter, each student did a piece then all of those from each class were put together to make one large work.

Students could also submit a piece of art in any format they wished and completed at home, based on “The Magic of the Moment,” coordinated by Megan Cabasco.

Carnegie Picture Lab put on four art projects and Chihuly Garden and Glass offered a hands-on display. Carnegie Picture Lab will display selected art projects in the Die Brücke building in coming months.

To handle the 250 students and their families, 10 Prospect Point parents volunteered with set up, hosted raffle tables, handed out ice cream and assisted with projects as needed. Picture Lab provided eight AmeriCorps volunteers to help with art projects and the Chihuly display.

Amanda said Tiffany Jenes is Prospect Point Picture Lab coordinator. She set up the class rooms and found volunteers to teach the curriculum provided by Picture Lab, then conducted art projects that are displayed on Art Night.

In addition to the Romare Bearden and The Dot projects, the school will have one more project to complete in spring.

Picture Lab raffled T-shirts and Chihuly books and had three prizes for each grade (K-5).

PTA provided two raffles of their own. Each grade had a raffle for art supplies for one student in each grade and one student from each grade received a gift certificate to the pottery painting studio.

“We have done many Art nights in the past,” Amanda said. “This year we worked really hard to have two projects completed so that every student had two pieces of art to show. By far this was the most amount of art work we have had to show.

The popular, highly attended event aims to get kids exposed to art and artists they may never have the chance to learn about, Amanda said.

“It brings an awareness to different kinds of art and allows the children to be creative in a way they might not always have an opportunity to be in everyday curriculums. To inspire a love of art in children starting at a young age.”

McLoughlin High School Jazz Ensemble brought prizes home from the 42nd annual Clackamas Community College Jazz Festival in Oregon City March 15.

They won a second-place trophy in the A division and three outstanding soloist awards.

Forty-seven high school and middle school jazz bands from all over Oregon and Washington attended the event said, Michael Agidius, band director with the Milton-Freewater School District.

Mac-Hi Jazz Ensemble members who received outstanding soloist certificates were Atziri Jimenez, tenor sax, and Diego Romero, bass.

Mac-Hi Jazz Ensemble performed three pieces in competition including “Blues Dues,” “Mystery Woman” and “The Chicken.”

Central Middle School Jazz Band also competed with three pieces, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “The Chicken.” Isaac Riley garnered an outstanding soloist award for solos with Central Band.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.


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