Kingsport woman sews more than 700 dresses for charity

Holly Viers • Oct 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Few people can say they’ve sewn 780 dresses, each one partly done by hand.

Kingsport resident Sharon Smith has already reached that milestone, and she isn’t stopping now. Her goal is to sew as many dresses as she can for Sewing 4 Souls, a West Virginia-based charity that provides clothing to disadvantaged children in other countries.

“We have so much, and we take it for granted,” Smith said. “We can go to our closet and get anything, and they have nothing. So that really got my attention, and (that’s why) I started.”

The journey begins

Smith, a retired principal from Kingsport City Schools, got involved with Sewing 4 Souls after a friend introduced it to her around five years ago. The last two years, she’s sewn “day and night” and has devoted two rooms of her house to sewing and storing the dresses.

Smith sews the finer details of each dress, including pockets, by hand, while the other parts are done on a sewing machine. She sews dresses of many sizes and designs, and each one is different from the last.

“Originally I thought, ‘If I can make 100 dresses, that’d be a lot,’ and then I thought, ‘I think I want to make 700,’ seven being God’s number of completion,” Smith said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I can make 700,’ so I hit that mark. Now I think, ‘I’ll make 1,000 easy,’ so I don’t know how many I’ll make. I just want to make until God takes me home.”

A global impact

Along with the dress, each child receives a new pair of underwear and flip flops, along with small toys that can be easily shipped. The organization also sends clothing for boys, Smith said, and so far donations have gone to children in 29 different countries.

One of Smith’s favorite aspects of the project, though, is the tags that are attached to each item of clothing. The tags contain a plan of salvation that is translated into each child’s native language.

“We minister to them physically first, giving them something that they don’t have and they’re so excited about,” Smith said. “But in reality, we want to minister to their souls.”

Getting involved

Even if you can’t sew, Smith said there are other opportunities to get involved with Sewing 4 Souls, including cutting out the dresses, collecting fabric or shopping for sewing supplies. Smith said donations of underwear, T-shirts, flip flops, fabric, trim, bias tape and other sewing supplies are always accepted.

Since she became involved, Smith hasn’t personally delivered any of the dresses, as they’re distributed by missionaries. Even so, she is content knowing she’s helped brighten a child’s life.

“I know that somebody’s going to take them and there’s going to be a smile on their face when they get it,” Smith said, “and I don’t have to see that to be blessed.”

To donate supplies, call (423) 967-8012 or (423) 612-7539. For more information, visit www.sewing4souls.org.