July 1, 2009

When children arrive with their mothers at a Women's Crisis Center shelter, they often have nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

"A lot of times when children come to the shelter they are afraid, they are scared, they have left their home, they have left their school and they have seen violence in their homes," said Maureen Rich, public education coordinator of the Women's Crisis Centers in northern Kentucky.

Kenton County 4-H'ers recently began a project to provide some comfort to those children. About 20 members signed up for a sewing class to learn to make pillowcases. At the end of the week-long day camp, most had made several colorful cases - one to keep for themselves and one or more to give to a sheltered child.

"We thought this would be a welcoming way to give the children something special that would be all their own," said Mary Averbeck, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension agent for 4H Youth development in Kenton County.  "It will be their pillowcase while they are at the shelter, and when they leave, it's theirs to take with them and put their other belongings in, so it becomes their luggage."

Averbeck said the goal for the week was to donate 50 handcrafted pillowcases. They more than reached that goal with the help of some of the more experienced sewers like Chris Stockman.

"It feels pretty good," he said as he finished up his third pillowcase. "I wanted to make three so I could give two away. I think it will be neat that they (the children) know somebody really wants to do something for them."

Sydney Robke had never sewn a stitch before attending the day camp. Master Clothing Volunteers were on hand throughout the week and made sure beginners like Sidney knew just what to do. She managed to complete three pillowcases and said it make her feel good.

"It's nice to do all of this," she said. "It sometimes gets frustrating, but it feels great that I can work hard and finish these projects."

Rich stopped by the last day of the camp to receive the pillowcases. Before she left, she talked to the 4-H'ers about the Women's Crisis Centers and also discussed ways for children to recognize and report abusive situations. She told the sewers she was very grateful for their effort and explained what the gifts will mean to sheltered children.

"To receive a pillowcase like this, something that is colorful and happy and to know that other children thought that much about them to make it for them is just a way of making them feel better about where they are and the circumstances they are in," Rich said.