Donna Horowitz, founder and president of Sew Crazy, said the group has made comfort items for animal shelters, bath robes for abuse shelters for women, backpacks for veterans at the VA Hospital, baby burial gowns for maternity wards and stuffed animals for police departments and the Willow unit at Woodridge. Plus, every October, the group honors breast cancer awareness month with hundreds of custom aprons for patients after surgery. They’re uniquely made to hold plugs patients have to tend to after surgery.
“There’s nothing like it on the market to buy,” Horowitz said. “We sew things that aren’t necessarily mainstream to bless local underserved people.”
The group also looks to donate to organizations that they feel get overlooked.
Looking for a project that will bring smiles while still being practical, the ladies thought of Meals on Wheels. Working with nurses from Holston Valley Medical Center’s cardiovascular unit, they worked to fill 116 hand-sewn patchwork fabric baskets with various non-perishable foods and personal hygiene items. Then, the ladies donated Christmas cards and the overstuffed baskets, wrapped with either lace or tulle, to Washington County Meals on Wheels. Recipients of the Christmas baskets enjoyed foods like cheese crackers, sweets, raisins, hot chocolate and granola bars.
“We are so grateful to the ladies of Sew Crazy and the generous homemade gifts for our Meals on Wheels recipients,” Stephanie Walker, Director of Nutrition Services for First Tennessee Human Resource Agency, said in a press release.
“The holidays are difficult for some adults who do not have family or who have family that are not nearby. The gift baskets our meal recipients received made them feel very special. The baskets were handmade, filled with lots of goodies, including a Christmas card and they were beautifully wrapped. We can’t thank them enough for their generosity,” Walker said.
Sew Crazy members Susan Kubenka, Veronica Maupin, Deborah Wilkinson and Horowitz even helped deliver some of the baskets themselves to the Meals on Wheels recipients. The remaining baskets were delivered during normal deliveries by the MOW volunteers before the Christmas holiday.
“We loved delivering our donations ourselves,” Horowitz said. “It’s rewarding to see their faces.”
“We don’t often get to see the recipients of our work,” Wilkinson added. “It was a very rewarding experience for us, seeing the faces light up and the surprise and appreciation they expressed to us.”
Upcoming projects for Sew Crazy include 70 winter vests for the Haven of Mercy shelter in downtown Johnson City, then activity mats for dementia patients.
“We like doing a variety of projects, varying the degree of difficulty because we educate beginning sewers, too,” Horowitz said. “We’re working on warm clothing for a local shelter, then activity mats with shoes strings to tie, zippers that go up and down, buttons to close, fabrics with different textures and colors. I understand that it becomes calming for the individuals with Alzheimer's disease.”
Most of materials are donated to the sewers. Since there isn’t a membership fee to join, once a year, they host a fundraiser to offset costs of extra materials and website maintenance. Several members even donate from their own stash of fabric. And now that the group is a nonprofit, they’re able to receive corporate donations.
The group is open to everyone who sews or just wants to help. Older folks who used to sew but can’t anymore cut out patterns and 6 by 6 inch squares. They donate thousands of squares to a maternity unit in a rural poverty-stricken area in Nicaragua. One member’s church goes on mission trips to Nicaragua, so the missionaries stuff their suitcases full of these squares to hand deliver.
“The women there are unsure when their baby is due. When they think it’s time, they make the journey to the clinic, but sometimes they’re too early but too late to go back home. There at the clinic, someone teaches them how to sew the squares of fabric into a lap quilt for their baby. So not only are they learning a new skill, they’re also easing the anxiety of giving birth.
“It’s our only project that deviates from the mission of serving solely the Tri-Cities,” Horowitz said. “Our focus is on this area because we’re a small group, so we have transportation and shipping cost issues. We’re happy to stay local with our donations.”
To make monetary or fabric donations, to find out what projects they’re working on or where meetings are held, contact Donna Horowitz at 423-434-0424 or visit the website. Or Like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sewcrazysew.