SLP student group makes dresses for African children

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Building on the tradition of service to others, little girls in Africa will soon have new dresses to wear thanks to the efforts of Spring Lake Park High School’s FCCLA members.

These dresses made by students in Spring Lake Park High Schools FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) will be shipped to little girls in Africa in need of clothing. Some of the FCCLA members are Amanda Jestrab (left to right), Rachel Eilers, Ashley Murray, Rick Osborne and Danielle Webb. Photo by Elyse Kaner

About a dozen Family, Career and Community Leaders of America students at the high school recently crafted the clothing from pillowcases.

The project is meant to provide relief to children in Africa and plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy.

The 19 dresses made by the SLP students, plus dresses made from FCCLA chapters throughout Minnesota, will be shipped to and distributed by the non-profit organization Little Dresses for Africa.

Parents and staff members at SLPHS donated supplies – pillow cases, elastic, thread and bias tape – rendering the project free of cost.

“We’re doing something so simple for us, but something so huge for them,” Rachel Eilers said, referring to the children in orphanages, churches and schools in Africa who will receive the dresses.

Eilers, a senior and FCCLA state vice president of public relations, said the project not only helps underprivileged little girls, but it served as a bonding activity among the FCCLA members.

Each student contributed in an assembly-line manner. Some cut arm holes in the pillowcases, others ironed or sewed in elastic and the

Jessica Borgert, left, and Amanda Jestrab, both 10th-graders, created dresses from pillowcases that were sent to little girls in Africa . Photo courtesy of Lori Henry

seams, while others tied the bias tape into shoulder straps for the dresses. The process took about 20 minutes per dress, according to Lori Henry, FCCLA adviser at SLP High School.

They worked with two sewing machines, which students carted to school.

“One of the biggest things students learned is they realized they were helping (some) children in Africa who have no clothes,” Henry said.

The project also fostered friendships among the students early on in the school year, she said. Freshmen through seniors participated.

‘A good idea’

Amanda Jestrab’s job in the project was to match bias tape to the fabric and tie it into shoulder straps.

For Amanda, who is a sophomore, the best part of working on the project was seeing the finished dresses and knowing that she is helping to make someone happy.

The project was a good idea, she said. “We were able to recycle and reuse pillow cases and it will be able to help girls in Africa,” Jestrab said.

“I learned there’s a need for more clothes for children in Africa. You usually think about food.”

Little Dresses for Africa also accepts new and gently used shorts for boys, according to the non-profit’s website.

To date, LDA has received dresses and donations from all 50 states in the nation. It has received more than 500,000 little dresses, which have been distributed in 31 African countries, the website states.

In addition to sending dresses to Africa, LDA has sent dresses to Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cambodia, South Dakota and the Appalachian Mountain regions in times of crises.

SLP High School’s pillowcase/dress project was one of many service projects suggested by the national FCCLA program.

In November, the SLP chapter worked on a career connections project. Last month chapter members walked the school’s hallways for better health. In January, they will address traffic safety, while February’s project is Stop the Violence. The chapter has 26 members.

FCCLA helps young men and women become leaders by addressing important personal, family, work and societal issues through family and consumer sciences education.

Nationally, the group has more than 205,000 members. FCCLA has nearly 6,500 chapters from 50 state associations and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

For more information on Little Dresses for Africa, visit

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]