WATSONTOWN — Autumn Sena will always remember a 2011 project she participated in to sew dresses to be delivered to impoverished girls from around the world.
Now 16 and a member of the Lewisburg Area High School Class of 2021, Sena still has photos of herself modeling some of the dresses which she helped to sew eight years ago. That project left such an impression on Sena that she is now working to bring the community together to craft 100 dresses for girls in need.
Sena, a member of Watsontown Girl Scout Troop 61121, is partnering with Dress a Girl Around the World for her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
Through the effort, two dress-sewing workshops will be held. The first is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Public Library for Union County, 255 Reitz Blvd., Lewisburg. The second will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, at the library.
Sena first learned about Dress a Girl Around the World when she participated in the dress-making event.
“I really like the idea of helping these girls in under-developed places,” Sena said. “It gives them pride.”
Marie Eisenhower, who along with Sena attends the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Northumberland, is a Pennsylvania ambassador for Dress a Girl Around the World.
She said the organization, which was founded in 2009, is based in Iowa and has ambassadors across the United States. The ambassadors lead efforts to sew dresses, which are then hand delivered to girls in need around the world.
“I’ve been a seamstress all my life,” Eisenhower, who lives in Northumberland, said. “You tend to accumulate fabric. I was going through my stockpile and said ‘what can I do with my fabric?’”
In 2010, she started making dresses for Dress a Girl Around the World. The dresses are generally geared toward girls ages 2 through their teenage years.
The event that Sena helped to make dresses at in February 2011 was the first Eisenhower coordinated as an ambassador for the organization.
Just two months later, Eisenhower was diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. While she is now in remission, Eisenhower is still batting some health issues related to the chemotherapy she received.
It was sewing dresses which served as a bit of a therapy for Eisenhower as she battled cancer.
“I took dresses to sew to my chemo appointment,” she said. “It helped me through those trials.”
Given her history of helping with a Dress a Girl Around the World project, Sena thought it was logical to partner with the organization for her Gold Award project.
“I thought it would be good if (the project) was benefitting girls,” Sena said.
Krista Yoder, Sena’s Girl Scout troop leader, agreed that the choice was a good fit for her project.
“Anything that’s going to help a girl feel valued, that they have a place in the world, is (a worthy cause),” Yoder said. “If it starts with a dress to make a girl feel proud, it’s a good thing.”
She also noted that the Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve. All projects must be approved by the local council. It’s suggested that girls log 100 hours of service working on the project.
“It has to identify an issue,” Yoder said, of the project. “It must be something they can work toward correcting.”
In addition to needing helping hands to sew dresses, Eisenhower said donations of T-shirts and 100% cotton fabric are needed for the events to be held at The Public Library for Union County.
While all styles of dresses will be made, Eisenhower said the focus will be on making dresses from T-shirts.
While Eisenhower will be offering sewing tutorials at the two events, she said there will be jobs that can be completed by individuals who don’t sew.
Each dress distributed as part of the Dress a Girl Around the World effort contains a label marked with the organization’s logo. Labels are placed on the dresses by ironing, a task which will need to be completed at the two work sessions.
Sena hopes to personally deliver the 100 dresses which are being made through her Gold Award project. In August, she will leave for Chile to study for 10 months as a Rotary exchange student. She is now working to identify locations in Chile where she can take the dresses.
Prior to arriving in Chile, Sena hopes to visit Argentina. During the 2017-2018 school year, Sena’s family hosted an exchange student from Argentina, Paloma Crespo.
Crespo has identified locations in Argentina where Sena could distribute dresses if she is able to visit there prior to arriving in Chile.
Sena is looking forward to the possibility of personally handing a dress to a girl living in poverty. She believes it will be a powerful experience seeing a girl light up with happiness by receiving a dress.
Eisenhower noted that she once sent dresses with a Bucknell University professor who was traveling in the Dominican Republic. Members of his group gave one fo the dresses to a girl they saw walking the streets wearing just dirty underwear.
“He was blown away just how different (the girls) felt just by receiving a dress,” Eisenhower said, of the professor.
For information on donating to or becoming involved with Dress a Girl Around the World, visit the Dress a Girl Around the World PA Chapter Facebook page or email Eisenhower at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact Eisenhower if you would like to receive dresses to distributed to impoverished children on an upcoming trip abroad.
Sena hopes her project inspires others to step up when they learn of a cause they care about.
“I hope that people, after hearing about this project, if they think an issues is too big to help with they realize that you have to take steps or it will never get solved,” she said.
Sena is the daughter of Robert and Kimberly Sena of Winfield. Her brother, Robert Sena II, has served as a Rotary exchange student and is now completing a short-term visit to Ecuador.
Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email email@example.com.