Running Etown Sewing Studio is the perfect retirement job,” owner Renita Yahara said. “It combines my two passions: sewing and teaching.”
Located in the heart of the Elizabethtown business district, Etown Sewing Studio serves a dual purpose. Since January 2017, Yahara has offered beginner sewing lessons for ages seven and up. Students attend four one-hour classes per month and will progress through a variety of projects of increasing difficulty. Machines and materials are provided, and no experience is required.
Additionally, the studio acts as a hub of activity for “Dress A Girl Around the World,” an organization that provides dresses to girls at risk and in need. Volunteers come to the studio to help sew the dresses out of donated material, as well as to make dolls that are sent along for comfort.
“These dresses give the girls a boost in self-esteem, modesty and protection,” Yahara said. “Over every pocket, we sew the ‘Dress A Girl’ label to hopefully make predators pass them by.”
Unfortunately, the need for such dresses is tremendous. Yahara explained that the average age of girls sold into human trafficking is between 11 and 14. Following this, most children live only about seven years due to disease, abuse or suicide.
“These kids have nothing,” Yahara said. “These dresses are one way to make their lives better and to let them know someone is looking out for them.”
Yahara explained that she discovered the organization when a friend gave her a box of spare material. After a brief online search, she knew she had found her next project. She worked with the organization on her own for three years, and is now the Pennsylvania Ambassador.
Beginning in January 2017, she opened the studio to volunteers one Wednesday each month. These monthly sessions soon turned into weekly meetings, and they have not missed a Wednesday since. As of March 2017, they have donated over 856 dresses.
Sara Risser has served as a missionary in Ecuador for 50 years and is passionate about the “Dress A Girl” project at Etown Sewing Studio. She explained that she worked in hospitals for many years and has seen first-hand the poverty and destruction that has impacted the country.
Now at age 81, Risser coordinates with other missionary families to deliver dresses to girls in need.
“We look for people who really need them,” she said. “In recent years, for example, the coastal communities have been so hard hit by hurricanes.”
Risser is just one of many passionate volunteers who helps transfer dresses from the studio to communities around the world.
Yahara herself has lived all over the United States—she was born in Georgia and has spent 33 years in Alaska, 10 years in Indiana and seven years in Elizabethtown. She loves the vibrant business district and friendly people in the community, and encourages any who are interested to learn more about lessons or volunteer work.
Volunteers with the “Dress A Girl” program typically come to the shop on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and accommodations can be made if larger groups wish to attend.
To learn more, visit www.etownsewingstudio.com.