Clothes for a Cause from DGAW's El Dorado County Chapter
(Back) Dawn Hilton, with (front l-r) Kamdyn, Susan, Ellana, Jordan and Laura - Photography by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
Imagine a world where every girl owns at least one dress.” That is the trademark phrase of Dress a Girl Around the World (DGAW), a group that sews dresses for young girls across the globe who are living at risk and in poverty.
Since the nonprofit’s beginning in 2009, it’s provided more than 300,000 new dresses to girls in 81 countries. As a program of Hope 4 Women International, a faith-based organization founded to empower women, Dress a Girl “ambassadors” are located throughout the U.S. and the world.
El Dorado County’s local coordinator is Dawn Hilton. A passionate supporter of the project, she first learned about it while attending a church concert. “Immediately, I could feel my heart going out to these young girls,” says Hilton. “The idea that making a dress could bring them dignity and hope for their future was something that I could not ignore.” Hilton shared the opportunity with her Placerville church’s leadership team, who helped her start a ministry that has grown to over 75 women, men and teenagers. The participants make dresses and assemble kits that include a pattern, colorful fabric and decorative trims. Hilton says the dresses are simple to make.
“We encourage every person to pour their creativity into the dress and to have fun, like they are making it for their daughter or granddaughter,” she explains. “It always feels like Christmas to me when people arrive with their finished dresses. You can really feel the love that is sewn into each dress. Plus, every dress has a DGAW label sewn on it, which lets others know that this young girl is cared for and valued.”
The group holds “Sew Fests” every third Saturday of the month at Cold Springs Church from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and invites the community to participate. The events are fellowship-oriented with food and activity—cutting and sewing fabric, and creating trims and pockets for the dresses.
Hilton says they will soon be making clothing for boys as well. “We’re in the early stages of making Shorts for Dudes,” she says. “Boys need to know that they are special, too. We will also be making ‘feminine hygiene’ kits for young girls going through puberty.”
Hilton hopes to travel soon with a missionary group to hand-deliver dresses and shorts to the children. In the meantime, she happily recounts how one of her dresses made its way to a girl across the globe. “For our first Sew Fest, a couple brought a friend from the Bay Area,” Hilton remembers. “We learned that she was a missionary getting ready to head off to Ethiopia, so she took 12 dresses with her. Before she left, I asked to look through the bag of dresses; at the bottom was the very first dress I made to start the ministry and teach the informational classes. It all seemed to line up so perfectly—how exciting to know that first dress was going to Ethiopia.”