Friday, June 12, 2015

Stitching the Legacy of the American Red Cross

by David Warren, volunteer contributor

Saturday, June 13th is National Sewing Day, for generations seamstresses and tailors across the country have donated their time and talent to the American Red Cross. Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth service area we are privileged to still have a fully functioning production room. 

Working with Roosevelt-era equipment can make people grouse, even the ladies of the Red Cross’ Production Room. 

When sewing and knitting hundreds of baby blankets, caps and gowns, quilts, slippers and other handmade items; it’s essential to have sewing machines that hum. But the ones used in the Production Room operated as smoothly as a failing presidential campaign. 
Marcia Bauer, lead volunteer of the Production Room, put some change together and arranged for two new ones. The ladies of the room are humming to a steadier beat, while stitching together the garments that bring comfort to those at delicate points in their lives. 

“We’re the only existing production room supported by a Red Cross chapter,” Bauer explains. 
The rooms were a staple of many Red Cross chapters during World War II as volunteers assembled bags of socks, knitted caps and other items for soldiers. When the war ended, the Production Room for the American Red Cross North Texas Region turned more of its attention locally. 

Hundreds of hand-made comfort items were provided for infants and others at hospitals in the Metroplex. Cloth covers and baby blankets went to neonatal intensive care units, lap robes and slippers went to adult patients, and others benefited from specialty items like wheelchair caddies. Some clothes are created as final garments for stillborn infants. 
Occasionally, large quilts and blankets are sent to the Ronald McDonald House near the Red Cross offices in Dallas. Other knitted caps go to the Salvation Army. 

It seems those who volunteer with Bauer seldom have idle hands. In the fiscal year ending June 2014, more than 30 people and about a dozen groups volunteered more than 21,700 hours to produce a list of items as long as Jack’s beanstalk: more than 2,600 baby caps, 145 security blankets, 524 pillows, 170 caps and scarves, more than 700 cooling neck wraps. And that’s just a sampling. 

Bauer says generally about five volunteers gather each Tuesday morning to sew, and that another 30 or so work from their homes. Bauer began volunteering in the Production Room in 1996 and says it’s become “a never-ending flow of things” made by her volunteers. 

“The hospitals take it all and they want more,” says Bauer, a Dallas resident and the mother of two grown daughters, both of whom contribute to the Production Room. 
Bauer said it’s fulfilling to provide a measure of comfort to people in need of aid or at a difficult point in their lives. 

“I just get a great satisfaction from helping people,” she says. 
But Bauer believes a high standard has been set for her. The Production Room is named for Albina Young, who devoted more than 50 years of service to the Red Cross. Few others have committed more of their time or shown more selflessness. 

“With a model like that to live up to, you feel like 20 years is nothing,” Bauer said.

If you know of a sewing group interested in partnering with the Production Room, contact us online at

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