Mandan News

Mother, daughter create dresses for African children

One Saturday in February 2011, Kay Ludlum stumbled upon a TV show that would inspire her and her daughter to create something that would have a global impact for years to come.

Kay Ludlum had been looking for a project for her daughter, Shelby, to help her earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, when she came across “Sewing with Nancy (Zieman)” on PBS.

“I hadn’t watched the program for a long time and was pleasantly surprised with the interview that Nancy had with Rachel O’Neill,” said Kay Ludlum. “I immediately hit the record button on the DVR and waited for Shelby to return home. I was sure this was the project we were looking for.”

Shelby Ludlum immediately fell in love with O’Neill’s organization, Little Dresses for Africa, and they began planning how they could incorporate a similar project for the Gold Award.

“At that time, O’Neill’s goal was to receive dresses from every state,” said Kay Ludlum. “She was only short four states, and she had not yet received any dresses from North Dakota.”

The two Ludlums launched what they called Golden Dresses from Mandan.
“Shelby fell in love with the little girls,” said Kay Ludlum. “Due to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the orphaned children were de-valued, especially little girls. They would receive these dresses as a sign that they were worthy. It provided them with hope, that they had value.”

Shelby Ludlum and her mother decided to contact their local parish, Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Mandan, and spoke with The Rev. Shane Campbell about launching the project there. Campbell was on board with their idea, and the Ludlums received approval from the Girl Scouts in December 2011.

The Ludlums held their first “sewing circle” in February 2012 at the church and received donations of fabric from parishioners, neighbors, and even some used sheets from Country Inn and Suites and Amer-ica’s Best Value Inn.

“Their donations really helped get the project off the ground,” said Kay Ludlum.

Golden Dresses from Mandan has been meeting at Saint Joseph Catholic School on the second Thursday of the month from November to May.

“At the meetings, we prepare the sheets and fabric for sewing the dresses,” said Kay Ludlum. “Packets are then available for sewers to take home and sew.”

Once the dresses are completed, sewers drop them off at Saint Joseph Parish office at the church. “If you do not have time to assist in preparing the sheets, just stop by and pick some up,” said Kay Ludlum.

The group also is making shorts for the boys, or “Britches for Boys,” as O’Neill calls them. “We can’t forget the boys,” said Kay Ludlum. “They need something new also.”

In their first year, Golden Dresses sent 216 dresses to Little Dresses for Africa, and even hand delivered some of them directly to O’Neill in Brownstown, Mich.

This year, Golden Dresses is sending 142 dresses with African missionaries from the Bismarck Catholic Diocese.

Tip and Chuck Reichert, directors of the Bismarck Diocese mission in Africa, will be distributing the dresses during their mission trip, which they leave for on Monday. They join three missonaires from the diocese that are already in Kenya.

“These kids don’t have a lot of dresses, and if they do they only have one, which they wear to church,” said Chuck Reichert. “It’ll be a big treat to them and they’ll be really excited.”

The Reicherts have been the directors for the African mission for about four years and also distribute school uniforms, food items, and surprisngly popular underwear, Chuck Reichert said.

Golden Dresses has had about 20 volunteers, according to Kay Ludlum. “Some volunteers help cut and sort, and some sew at home,” she said. “We currently have enough materials to make another 1,000 dresses. What we need now is more sewers.”

Shelby Ludlum has left for basic training with the Army and will be at Fort Sill in Oklahoma until February.

By Ashley Wright, Lee News