A sewing project for needy children, which began with a small circle of friends, is now a cottage industry fueled by the needlework of more than 50 Sandwich women and the donations of countless others.
The “Read Happy” project was launched quietly in April by Mare Ambrose, a retired elementary school teacher, who mentioned to her book group that she would like to do something to help comfort children whose lives had been disrupted by COVID-19.
“I was thinking about the kids who were out of school and who could not go to the library because the libraries were closed. This loss of connection would have been especially hard on kids without resources,” Ms. Ambrose said. “It’s a confusing time for them.”
She proposed to her book group, the Sandwich Library Adult Book Discussion Group, that they make pillowcases of colorful fabrics and fill them with children’s books.
“The pillowcases are something the kids can have of their own—something comforting they can put their belongings in,” Ms. Ambrose said. “I thought making the pillowcases would give women who sew—mostly women of a certain age—a way to help out.”
In a note to her fellow book club members, Ms. Ambrose wrote:
“Almost any kind of fabric will work, but cotton or flannel are ideal. Bright patterns and character prints would be fun for young children; florals and geometrics as well as sports prints will suit somewhat older kids as well. The age group I had in mind is grades 2 to 8.”
Ms. Ambrose had no idea how that simple notion would catch fire.
Book club members mentioned the project to a couple of Sandwich sewing groups—notably the Sandwich Stitchers and the Bayberry Quilters—and suddenly an army of volunteers set to work.
On Thursday, June 18, Ms. Ambrose delivered about 95 book-filled pillowcases to Cradles to Crayons, a Boston-based charity that gives donated items to underprivileged children. Recently she also delivered about 70 pillowcase bundles to BAMSI, a Brockton-based nonprofit that helps children with disabilities.
Sue Driscoll is not affiliated with the sewing groups but loves to sew.
The retired 4th grade teacher and former fabric shop manager has created 93 of the pillowcases by herself in the past few weeks.
“I have my guest room set up like an assembly line,” Ms. Driscoll said this week in a telephone interview. “So many people are hurting right now. This is my way to help.”
The creators use French seams so there are no raw edges. They make the body of the pillowcase one fabric and use a contrasting fabric for the trim.
The children’s books, new and gently used, are also donated.
A book drive held on Tuesday, June 16 in the public library’s parking lot was especially fruitful, Ms. Ambrose said.
“We received many, many books and donations of money this week,” she said.
Ms. Ambrose is currently calling the campaign the Don’t Worry, Read Happy Pillowcase and Books Project, but she is thinking of shortening the name and turning it into a registered nonprofit organization.
“I’m thinking about whether it should just continue as a growing project or whether it should become a program,” Ms. Ambrose said. “It is keeping me very busy.”
Anyone who wishes to contribute their sewing talent, books, fabric or monetary donations may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.