NASELLE — “Every girl deserves one dress” is the vision of the international Dress a Girl Around the World organization. The organization’s website indicates that since 2009 over a million dresses have been provided to girls in 81 different countries. That organization now has two local contributing programs; one in Cathlamet and, more recently, one that covers Western Wahkiakum and Eastern Pacific counties.
After being introduced to the program by Puget Island resident Char Damitio, Grays River’s Pearl Blackburn decided she wanted to become involved.
“Char came to a Skamokawa Grange women’s activity and told us about the program while showing us the dresses,” said Blackburn. “At the time, it was just her and one other woman doing it. I said, ‘Hey! This is something I want to do.’”
The Cathlamet group has since grown to around a dozen women and meets on the first Friday of each month at 1 p.m. in the Cathlamet Community Center. They produced dresses that were featured and judged at last year’s Wahkiakum County Fair.
The Naselle Timberland Library later featured a display of the dresses from the fair. That display caught the attention of Gail Heppner, who then contacted Blackburn and said she too wanted to become involved in the Dress a Girl program. Heppner invited several other women to become involved as well.
“Since we were all from this side of the KM,” noted Blackburn, “it just made sense to start a second program. We started meeting on the first of January and now have between six and eight women who are making dresses. The dresses are fairly simple to make and take a small amount of fabric. We have some very talented women in the community that sew and the dresses don’t take very long to make. We meet on the first Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in the sewing room at the Grays River Valley Center at Johnson Park. We’ve had people who have donated fabric. At the monthly meeting, the women pick up fabric and patterns and bring in the dresses they have made. Together, we look the dresses over to ensure they are of good quality and then we put the Dress a Girl Program label on the front of the dress.”
According to Blackburn, while on a medical mission trip, one of the members of the Cathlamet group recently delivered 19 dresses to a remote village on the top of a mountain in Honduras.
“We make dresses for little girls from around the age of two up to size 12. The dresses are hand delivered and a dress is put on each girl. The dress helps the girl to cover her body with dignity and we put the label in plain sight to detour human trafficking by indicating this girl is not alone and belongs to a bigger organization.”
Recently, Blackburn met with the 4H group in Naselle and demonstrated how to make little pocket dolls which require both a sewing machine and some hand sewing. That group is currently making pocket dolls which will be included with the dresses when they are sent out.
The public will have two upcoming opportunities to view dresses made by this group and learn more about the program. On Saturday, March 23, the local Dress a Girl program will have a display booth at the annual Super Sale held in the Grays River Valley Center. The Super Sale will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on that day. On April 28, a Tea and Fashion Show is being planned by Becky Saari and Diana Berry to start at 3 p.m. in the Valley Bible Church. Dresses made by the local Dress a Girl program will be displayed and modeled by local young ladies.
Following the Tea and Fashion Show, the dresses produced by the local program members will be mailed to the International Dress a Girl headquarters located in Iowa. The postage is being covered by the Cathlamet Women’s Club. According to Blackburn, dresses are sent from headquarters to Native American reservations and the Appalachian region within the U.S. as well as countries around the world.
This is a program that provides happiness and a sense of pride to both the producers and the receivers. Photos on the organization’s website, https://www.dressagirlaroundtheworld.com/, show little girls’ beaming faces as dresses are being placed on them. Just talk with any member of the program and you’ll quickly sense the joy and pride making these dresses gives them.
Cotton fabric is always needed to produce these dresses. Persons interested in donating fabric are suggested to contact Pearl Blackburn at 360-465-2347. Those interested in making dresses are urged to attend a meeting of the group held on the first Monday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Grays River Valley Center.