When it came to continuing community service work, the ladies of the Wayland Woman’s Club weren't going to let the COVID-19 pandemic get in the way.
It had been more than a year since most of the members saw each other in person. Their monthly meetings canceled due to the pandemic, leaving annual projects in limbo.
But on a sunny Monday morning, a long-awaited get-together was in the works as several members met at Kathy Bowman’s house near Lake Shenandoah to share how the determination of giving was stitched together one handmade dress at a time.
At the beginning of the year, five members from the club handmade nearly 120 dresses out of donated pillowcases and sheets.
Each dress, with its own colorful details and child-friendly prints, were shipped to an organization in southwest Virginia two weeks before Easter and will provide an extra piece in a child’s wardrobe who needs it.
The group has been putting its sewing machines together since 2014, when several current members came up with the idea after discovering the organization, which the club requested not to identify.
“It went from one thing to another,” said Kathy Bowman. “We used anything that could make a dress.”
Built off the foundation of the Virginia Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Wayland Woman’s Club was chartered by Barbara Marsh, Irene Hetzler and Ruby Gildner in 1969, who named the club after John Wayland.
Since its formation, the Wayland Woman’s Club has prided itself on community service.
“We are a civic organization,” said Sharon Kline, acting club president. “We have a list of organizations we donate to and we do fundraisers.”
The club started with a program called Bridge-A-Rama, a fundraiser where people are paired with a partner to play bridge. The fundraiser lasts from September to April.
As the club evolved, it began donating funds to support a mobile dental unit for impovrished children at the Rockingham County Health Department, and collected canned goods several times a year for the East Rockingham Food Pantry.
As part of the club’s state projects, it supports Operation Smile, Camp Easter Seal, Evie Key Campership and the MaDee Project.
When the Rockingham County Fair is in full swing, members of the club volunteer their time in the Chicken Shack to help the Cross Keys/Mill Creek Ruritan Club.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kline said the group stopped meeting in January or February of 2020, but continued to sew dresses to support the organization.
Kline said it was helpful to her to have a project she could do during the pandemic to occupy her time, which was echoed by other members.
“It was wonderful for me because it kept my projects up,” Charlotte Maupin said. “It was helpful to have a project to work on.”
In 2020, the club made roughly 95 dresses using donated fabric.
Bowman said it takes roughly three hours to complete one dress from start to finish. By using various types of fabric and materials, each member can be creative when making a dress.
“It’s fun putting patterns together,” Bowman said. “My favorite dress that I made had fish on it.”
As the club slowly gets back to holding meetings again, Kline said the club is always looking for new members and anyone interested can email her at email@example.com.