By: Karla Hovde
Can a sewing machine change a family’s future? If that family has limited access to other ways of making a living, a sewing machine can mean the difference between hunger and food on the table. It can be the deciding factor between children dropping out of school or having new school uniforms and money for school fees.
Rev. Randy Koppen read an article from the Midwest Mission this spring about how used sewing machines can change the lives of vulnerable people. He wondered how Bethlehem UMC in Hutchinson could come alongside Midwest Mission’s efforts to collect, restore, and ship sewing machines to people all around the world who need them.
Koppen asked a quilting group at the church, the Comfort Quilters, to sponsor a sewing machine collection challenge this summer, aiming for 50 machines.
Had Koppen known ahead of time that Midwest Mission only collected 268 electric sewing machines in all of 2022 from across 12 Annual Conference, he says he might have been daunted by the idea of just one church collecting 50 machines. Vi Viesselman, the Comfort Quilters leader, later told Koppen, “When you said 50, I thought you had been out in the sun too long.”
Nonetheless, the Comfort Quilters agreed to the challenge and gathered a few sewing machines to start the collection. Then Hutch Sew & Vac, a local retailer, generously donated 30 machines. A Facebook post about the collection challenge gained traction, and soon, people from the community were calling asking to donate sewing machines. Others searched garage sales and thrift stores for more machines.
The 50th sewing machine was collected by mid-August, earlier than expected. A truck from Midwest Mission picked up the machines and took them to its Illinois location, where they will be cleaned, oiled, and any needed repairs made.
Since then, another six sewing machines have been donated, and Bethlehem UMC is continuing to collect machines until Sept. 11. You can contact Rev. Randy Koppen if you have a machine to donate.
Your church can also organize a similar collection, which is a great way to invite the community to interact with your church. It is a ministry that is possible for many churches, no matter how big or small the congregation is.
“Most people have these treasures, and they have memories associated with them, so they don't want to donate to just anyone, sell them in a garage sale, or junk them,” says Midwest Mission Director Chantel Corrie. “Giving it to an organization that can put it in the hands of people who will value it, use it, and create beautiful things and memories with it makes it a positive parting.”
She encourages all churches to consider a sewing machine collection drive because of how big a difference it can make in people’s lives.
“Giving sewing machines to women in developing countries is like giving out winning lottery tickets,” Corrie says.
For example, she says the average yearly salary for a working professional in Haiti is $7,000, and for people in poverty, it is much less. Saving up to buy a sewing machine is often out of reach.
Midwest Mission’s partner organizations in countries like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or the Philippines offer women sewing classes and life skill trainings. Women receive a sewing machine at the end of the classes, and can sell the clothing and home goods they make. Corrie also explained that well-made vintage machines are built to last and can be passed from parent to child, so the financial benefits to the family can last for generations.
Corrie tells the story of a woman in the Philippines who shared that she didn't have many options to earn money for her family, but after receiving a machine, she could support her family in a way that was fulfilling to her and not degrading.
Donating a dusty sewing machine can turn a piece of clutter into a way to grow in love of God and neighbor. Everything that is donated to Midwest Mission is “showing Christ's love in a practical way to bring hope to those we will likely not even meet this side of heaven,” says Corrie.
Karla Hovde is the communications specialist for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church