Along the wall of the main hall of Highland Park Baptist Church, one hundred colorful dresses were hung with care.
Each dress was created from a pillowcase with a cross stitched on the front. Some dresses were created from silk pillowcases and patterned pillowcases, and for the plainer pillowcases, details were added, like ribbon and trim.
Each dress is unique — there are no duplicates.
The dresses were sewn by church members for the Highland Park 17-member mission team, to distribute at orphanages they will visit during a Dominican Republic mission trip, June 8-15.
Frances Nixon, church member and seamstress, heard about the idea to make pillowcase dresses from her daughter, LeeAnn Stokes, who serves as vice president of existing business services for the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
Stokes said she heard about the idea from the owner of a local business, who had created pillow case dresses with her Surry County church. Attempts were made to find the church who began the project, but they were not successful.
Nixon said she loved the idea of making dresses for the children in the Dominican Republic, and she decided it was a perfect fit with the upcoming mission trip. The church’s mission team wanted a special item to take along with them when they visited the Dominican Republic, and the dresses were selected.
A local woodworker and church member, Errol Hill, created 150 wooden crosses, with a hole drilled through each cross, to distribute among the boys in the orphanages. They will also give the boys a t-shirt with a cross on the front, and the girls will receive the pillowcase dresses and beaded necklaces.
Glenda Weddle, church member and Frances Nixon’s sister, said church members purchased suitcases at Goodwill, which the mission trip participants will pack with the gifts. After the gifts are distributed, they will leave the suitcases in the Dominican Republic.
Members of the church helped to raise money for the team, so they could afford to pay to check the extra baggage charges.
Nixon said she made 18 of the pillowcase dresses. Many of the donated pillowcases came from a church member who works as a massage therapist, Nikki Hopkins. Nixon said Hopkins has a regular need for sheets, but not pillowcases, so she donated all the pillowcases to the church.
Weddle pointed to a bright pink, silk pillowcase created from one of the donated pillowcases. “Can’t you just imagine how happy a little girl is going to be to get this dress? The color, the softness, it’s just wonderful — each dress has its own little personality,” remarked Weddle.
Church members began making the pillowcase dresses in April, after Nixon made sample dresses. She taught two simple sewing classes for church members who wished to help, and non-sewers also had an opportunity to help, by cutting, helping with the straps, and ironing. Most of the dresses were made in one day, at the church, and other dresses were brought in by church members who made them at home.
The original goal was to make 50 dresses, but Nixon said church members went above and beyond the call, and they ended up with at least 100 dresses.
Nixon explained that she heard the crosses sewn on each dress were important, because she was told people in the country who traffic children as slaves would not kidnap a child with a cross on their clothing.
Nixon also said she didn’t have anything to back up that claim, but said the crosses on the clothing were still a special touch.
As for the future, Weddle and Nixon explained that they would love to continue the pillowcase dress project, perhaps even making the dresses to pack in the shoe boxes, for the church to include as one of the gifts they put together in winter for needy children.
Highland Park Baptist Church’s youth minister, Drew Hunsley, said he traveled to the Dominican Republic four times in the past and a college student who is a member of the church, Drew Joyce, interned in the country. Joyce will be a part of the mission trip this summer and has helped arrange the details.
The youngest church member going on the mission trip is in second grade and the oldest is in their fifties.
Nixon said she traveled on Highland Park’s mission trip to Ecuador last year, and several of those who were on last year’s trip will travel to the Dominican Republic this year.
While in the Dominican Republic, the mission team plans to visit orphanages and will also cook food for a village. They have games and fun activities planned for children, as well as opportunities to “for members to share their testimony” and “share the gospel.”
Hunsley said several members have planned a “stick drama,” which he explained as the “dramatization of a song using three foot dowel rods” to tell a story. They are also planning to sing two songs in Spanish.
“I would like to see us making annual mission trips,” said Hensley, who explained the church was passionate about helping those in need. Highland Park Baptist Church’s pastor, Dr. Darrell Tate, has traveled on multiple mission trips, including a trip to Brazil.
Nixon said she was proud of her church for coming together and supporting the mission, and said the church’s youth group is planning a summer trip to a camp and a yard sale today will raise money for the trip. The mission team is also in need of additional monetary donations to support July’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic. At least $2,000 to $3,000 is still needed for the mission trip, according to Hunsley.
“With this church, if you let it come out that you need something, then it will happen. We just mention the need, and it is there. People here go above and beyond to help others,” said Nixon.
For more information about Highland Park Baptist Church’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and/or to make a donation, call the church at 786-4275. The mission trip will take place June 8 - 15. The Sunday service before the trip, on June 2, will include a mission-oriented service, dedication, an offering collection earmarked for the mission trip, and prayer for those who will travel on the mission trip. Worship service begins at 11 a.m. at Highland Park Baptist Church, located at 1247 Park Drive in Mount Airy.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.