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Clothing for all: Susan Chandler's sewing empowers children around the world 

It started with knowing someone who knew someone who was going to Africa.

When Susan Chandler found out that a friend of a friend was traveling to Africa, she knew she wanted to do something for children in need there. Her greatest skill is making things for others by sewing. Chandler said she was reminded of two women who sewed dresses for girls and women in Africa and other parts of the world.

click to enlarge CLOTHING FOR ALL Susan Chandler creates and encourages other sewers to make dresses and shorts for children in impoverished countries. - PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • Photo By Karen Garcia
  • CLOTHING FOR ALL Susan Chandler creates and encourages other sewers to make dresses and shorts for children in impoverished countries.

She made her donations through the nonprofits Little Dresses for Africa and Dress a Girl Around the World. Each provided sewing patterns to create dresses for girls and women. Anyone can go on the organizations' websites and download the dress patterns, sew a dress, and donate it to their local ambassador or mail it to the location of the nonprofit—as neither are locally based.

Chandler said both organizations are not only trying to provide clothing for those in need, but to empower little girls as well. According to the Little Dresses for Africa website, their mission is to give dresses to those in need to "plant the seed that they are worthy."

"Girls are at the bottom of the heap and they get no respect, that was the organizer's whole thing. These girls need a little something," Chandler said.

The drive to help others has always been a part of Chandler, and the nonprofits' message was something that she could get behind. So she decided to bring that effort to the local community.

"It's just something fun to do, and I never have trouble finding people willing to make dresses," she said. "There are so many people that want to give back."

So far, Chandler finds people who are traveling to different countries with children in need through word of mouth. The dresses she has gathered have gone to Mexico, the Philippines, and Uganda.

"You have to find someone who is going to take the donations because you can't really rely on the mail to get it there," she said.

Chandler gets together with women all over San Luis Obispo County to collect donations or pass the word on about her efforts. Her main meeting place is the United Church of Christ of SLO.

Sitting with her at a table with dress patterns, samples of dresses, and fabric is Carol Michael. Michael heard about Chandler's efforts through a newspaper ad and decided to join.

Michael was looking for a sewing group of some kind, as sewing was something she took up after retiring from teaching in Oregon.

"I started with a quilting group in my community, and I got to the point where none of my relatives needed any more quilts," she said.

So her group started making American Hero quilts, which are patriotic blankets for wounded soldiers in the Middle East. Michael said it was a way for the soldiers to know that people at home were thinking of them. When she moved from Oregon to the Central Coast, she wanted to find a group she could join that was creating pieces for others.

"I like to do helpful things, and I saw this in the paper. I had been trying to belong in the process of relocating and I found it," Michael said.

Chandler rounds up volunteers to make not only dresses but also shorts for little boys.

Anyone interested in making a dress can go online and find the pattern and guidelines on the Dress a Girl Around the world website. It gives directions and guidelines on what kind of fabric to use, how big the pockets on the dresses should be, as well as seams, hems, and other measurements.

Contact Susan Chandler directly at (805) 441-8031 with any questions or to find out more information.

Fast fact

Fin's Seafood Restaurant in Grover Beach held its annual Dinner for a Cause on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, and raised more than $18,000 for children, youth, and families impacted by homelessness in South County. All of the dinner's proceeds were donated to 5Cities Homeless Coalition to meet critical needs of those in South County who are homeless or facing homelessness, particularly unaccompanied youth and families with children. To learn more about 5Cities Homeless Coalition visit or call (805) 574-1638. Δ

Staff writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].

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