‘Bring some comfort’: Fabric drive brings supplies, sewing machines to Afghan refugees

MADISON, Wis. – For Afghan refugees, the whole fabric of their universe is torn.

“People have gone through an incredible ordeal to arrive here,” Connie McElrone of Madison said.

While donations are coming in, a group of women in Madison are sending something with a special touch.

“I just call it a mountain of fabric,” said McElrone, sitting in front of piles of fabric on her friend’s front porch.

Behind that is a mountain of effort, starting with McElrone. Her friend volunteering at Fort McCoy told her women had taken to sewing on two machines with no patterns and little fabric.

“When she told me about the sewing going on and the fabric running out, I thought a fabric drive,” McElrone said.

That can be taken literally. They put out a call for fabric donations, which now fill two cars and will be driven to Fort McCoy.

“This is one way to bring some comfort and maybe make this experience feel less intimidating and foreign,” McElrone said.

Quilter Gail Jacob heard about the donations and thought of the Sewing Machine Project based in Madison. That organization donated a number of sewing machines to be sent to Fort McCoy as well, which temporarily sat at Jacob’s home.

“I get so excited seeing them here, like every time I’m on the porch I feel good about it,” Jacob said. “I think it’s a thrilling project.”

She’s happy to do her part in helping the refugees craft clothes they’re comfortable in.

“Everyone is concerned about the refugees who came so suddenly and without anything,” she said. “I mean, it’s very compelling to think all they want is the materials and they can make culturally appropriate clothing for them.”

This effort gives refugees something, beyond just machines and fabric, to help stitch the lives they knew to the new ones they’ll create.

“It may seem like a small thing, feeling comfortable in your clothing,” McElrone said. “I think even a small thing can mean a lot and bring more comfort.”

Along with the Sewing Machine Project, McElrone credited the Madison Area Sewing Guild for their help. The volunteers were also able to raise $8,000.

The women behind the effort suggest that those interested in donating check out lists of needs from organizations such as Catholic Charities.