“You will never be hurt by helping hurting people.”
Alice Wright of Farmington said she holds true to that sentiment.
Sometimes, those opportunities come about through “God-winks”….chance encounters with another person that can only be explained by a divine appointment.
Wright remembers the day in 2014 when, holding a yard sale, a customer would set her on a life-changing mission.
“A lady came to my sale … and, I don’t know how we started the conversation, but we talked about sewing, I guess,” Wright said. “I told her I was retired and looking for something to do. She told me about the NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown program and I said, ‘boy…that sounds like something for me.’”
The customer would return to Wright’s home later in the day with information on the program.
According the NICU Helping Hands’ website, the Angel Gown® Program began in 2013 because “we recognized there was an overwhelming need for better support for families who lost a baby. Our Angel Gown® Program provides comfort for bereaved families through the gift of a beautiful custom made gown for final photos and for burial services. We provide support resources and mentoring programs for bereaved families as well. There is no greater gift that can be given to a grieving family than affirming the importance of the life of their child by offering the simple gift of our Angel Gown® and supporting them emotionally and educationally afterwards,” the website states.
In Wright’ sewing room are gowns waiting to be made into preemie dresses and suits and others that are a work in progress.
Some are gowns she has received from the organization or ones that one of the more than 700 authorized seamstresses with the program have sent her way.
“Now, if there is a donated gown close to me, the company has them shipped right to me,” she said. “I’ve received brand new gowns with tags on them”
Wright is working on one dress with satin buttons that once ran up the back of a wedding dress – using the tiniest of details from that wedding dress to create a keepsake remembrance for a family.
Wright said she can make about four to five dresses for the program from each donated wedding dress.
The organization has guidelines in place for the gowns, as a way to ensure the product serves as a nice memento for the family.
“It depends on the size and the embellishments. If (the embellishments) are big, you can’t use them,” she said. “You also can’t use the bodice because of the seams.”
Wright has created 27 outfits for Angel Gown. The time it takes to create a gown depends on the number of hours she volunteers at the Farmington Ministerial Alliance Thrift Store or with the youth group at Solid Rock Fellowship.
“I’m pretty busy,” she said of her volunteer work. “I have seen some tremendous people and people I have not seen in a long time. I’ve been retired since 2011. I’m a busy person. I like to stay busy.”
Wright will ship a box of gowns and suits at one time to cut down on shipping cost. Once the gowns arrive at the NICU Helping Hands organization, each is packaged with poems and after-care information and sent to NICU units.
Her other expenses come from the purchase of thread, needles and other sewing staples.
It’s not uncommon for a box to arrive at Wright’s doorstep with items from the friends through the program.
“All I have to say is ‘I need this or that’ and they say ‘I have it’ and they will ship to me,” she said, adding a sample bonnet she made was later approved by the organization and copied by others.
Wright knows the pain felt by families who lose a child.
Wright’s niece had a stillborn child, so she knows the hurt families go through.
“The families need something good out of the bad,” she said. “I remember when my niece’s baby was stillborn. I went to see her before they took the baby away and she was wrapped in a blanket in the little crib.
“I thought, ‘these are the only memories she has.’ Helping the families is something near and dear to me. It’s a loss and they need comfort. I don’t care if they know me or not…it doesn’t matter.
“My biggest thing is ministry…to share the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best thing you can do.”
In turn, Wright acknowledges it was a divine appointment that summer day.
“It was a God-thing. There is no doubt in my mind that He sent me there,” she said.
Wright was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago. Her first concern was that it would hinder her ability to sew. But she knows staying active is the best way to help her condition.
“My sewing room is a mess when I’m working in it,” she said. The gentleman who was at her house for an appraisal told her sewing “is a lost art.”
Her sister, Charlotte Grubbs, brought the story about Wright to the newspaper office. Wright said it was Grubbs who taught her how to sew.
“She’s better than I am,” Wright said. “I need to get her doing this as well.”
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or email@example.com