The Peters Township girls’ basketball team practiced pressing, cutting and weaving in a most unusual fashion Feb. 11. Instead of hitting the gym for their normal Saturday workout, the Lady Indians put the pedal to sewing machines and scissors to patterns to create prom dress for girls living in third-world countries.

When offered the opportunity to skip practice and learn to sew, the Peters girls were all in, even though many had never stitched a day in their lives.

“This beats practice. Beats all that running,” senior Alexandra Zuccarini said.

“Yes, it’s a good trade-off,” agreed Lillian Young. “Glad I am getting out of running.”

After a brief lesson on operating a sewing machine and a serger and piecing patterns together, the girls worked in groups to make dresses for girls in an orphanage who have never worn or owned one.

“No, I never wear dresses,” sophomore Mackenna Marisa said. “I always either wear leggings or jeans. Sports clothing pretty much. That’s my preference, but I definitely would have worn one of these dresses whenever I was 5. I love these dresses. They are so cute.”

Some 40 brightly colored dresses with floral patterns or animated prints were started and added to the 100 already in stock in the Venetia home of Judy and Bert Kendall. Bert is the Peters girls’ basketball coach. His wife’s Bible study group has already sewn and sent 358 dresses to places such as El Salvador and Kenya on behalf of the Dress A Girl Around The World organization.

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Members of the Peters Township High School girls varsity and junior varsity basketball teams pose with some of the dresses they helped sew during a recent community service project. The dresses will be sent to girls living in Third World countries.

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

“Girls in poor countries may have never had a dress, a new dress, anything new,” Judy Kendall said. “It’s really something to think about when you look in your closet and see how much we take for granted. It’s just right there for us, and our parents just buy us more and more and our closets are full.

“That’s when it hit me. It just really got to me. That this little dress can be some little girl’s first new article of clothing that she has ever had in her life.”

Bert Kendall was struck by his wife’s commitment to the cause and felt his players could benefit from the experience of creating the clothing.

“Judy has been involved in this for a while, and when she was doing it, it just struck me that the girls here in the South Hills have plenty. They get to go into their closet and choose what clothes to wear. There are kids all over the world who don’t have that luxury. So I thought it would be good for our team to get together and really take some time to try and make dresses and help kids around the world.”

After a hearty breakfast, the players started their quest to help the youth in underprivileged countries. They were divided into three groups to cut fabric that had already been washed, dried and ironed; press straps, of which four would be attached to the garments; and to sew seams for the dresses that would outfit girls that wore sizes 2, 3 and 4.

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Isabella Mills and Alexandra Zuccarini cut out patterns for the dresses to be worn by girls living in Third World countries.

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

“Each of these girls will sew. I wanted to show them how to sew,” Judy Kendall said enthusiastically.

She noted the two-hour crash course differed from her regular group because usually those women showed up and did one thing all day.

“I wanted these girls to experience the whole aspect of what it is to start, to press and to actually sew, even though most of them have never touched a sewing machine in their life,” she said. “It was an interesting experience for them.”

For Young, it indeed was an interesting endeavor. She proved to be a natural as she seamlessly spooled fabric through the sewing machine, churning out straps before moving on to affixing the solid-colored borders to the bottom edges of the hem.

“It was a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it was so simple,” said Young, who had never sewn before. “It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it.”

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Judy Kendall works with Hannah Stuck as she sews seams on a dress that will be given to a girl living in a Third World country.

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Hannah Stuck, who was just as adept at sewing as Young, agreed.

“It’s actually really fun, and it’s great to learn for the future. It definitely beats having practice,” she added, but noted she wasn’t sure what she was missing because she usually has fun doing that, too. “It’s great to be together, but this is definitely fun but different from what I usually do. Plus, it’s such a good cause.”

Zuccarini cited the bonding and philanthropic aspects of the project, and noted the players were getting more out of the sewing session than basketball practice.

“I think it’s good that we are making a difference. Both of these are important,” she said. “We are helping out kids in Africa who need it, and it makes us appreciate what we have.”

As Zuccarini ironed, she said she thought about how her team was making a difference for children in third-world countries. “They don’t have much. It makes us appreciate what we have. We are making a difference.

“Off the court, we need to bond together,” she continued. “Doing stuff like this helps us on the court. We are more comfortable with each other. We understand each other. So it’s a win-win situation.”

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Meredith May concentrates as she irons material during a community service project.

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

A Dress A Girl Around The World label is affixed to each dress. Judy Kendall receives the labels online. With the help of Standing in the Gap, she purchases all the other materials at JoAnn Fabrics. She can buy fabric for as little as $3 per yard. Since sizes 2 through 8 are usually sewn, on average a dress can be made with about a yard of fabric.

“Not only do these dresses clothe the girls, but they have found that it helps protect them from predators because when men see the label, they tend to leave them alone. They tend to think they are under the care of a ministry or an organization. So, it’s a beautiful win-win situation,” she said. “We are clothing them and helping to protect them. That’s what really got my heart.”

It stole Marisa’s heart, too. She said making dresses for a good cause was a great way to spend her Saturday morning.

“It’s a good thing that we are doing,” she said. “It really strikes me in my heart. It makes me feel good.”

Donations of fabric are always welcome, Judy Kendall said, and she noted that when her girls were little, she made them dresses, and she doesn’t use that kind of fabric anymore, but it’s under her work table.

“Sewers never throw fabric away,” she said. “I would love to have it. It’s amazing how even small scraps can make a dress.”

For example, a size 2 occasion dresses requires 18 inches or a half-yard of fabric. The bottom and straps take about 5 to 9 more inches.

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