The Sewing Machine Project, Inc. (SMP), a qualified s.501(c)(3) organization, was formed in 2005 for the purpose of collecting donated new and used sewing machines to distribute to individuals and groups in communities in distress as a result of natural disasters or poverty conditions. We call this “mending communities”. The Project offers these creative tools along with sewing education as needed, in an effort to offer new hope in a creative way. Since 2005 we have distributed over 1400 sewing machines, helping people become self-sustaining through sewing. We work locally, nationally and internationally.
Community is important no matter where you live. The mission of the Sewing Machine Project is to give people a tool that will not only help them mend their own lives but also will give them a way to take an active role in the rebuilding of their community. People grow strong and their community grows strong as well.
The Sewing Machine Project was conceived in March, 2005, following the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. A BBC article on the internet gave painful details about a woman who had lost her sewing machine in the storm, a machine she’d saved for years to buy, and, in losing it, she lost her means of earning an income. Margaret Jankowski, the founder of The Sewing Machine Project, began collecting donated sewing machines here in Wisconsin and shipping them to Sri Lanka. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005 The Sewing Machine Project’s focus shifted to that region. From 2006 to the present days, we have delivered sewing machines to individuals, schools and community centers in the greater New Orleans area. People are using them not only to rebuild their lives but also to start small sewing-related businesses.
The Sewing Machine Project now operates on a local, national and international level. Locally, we offer beginning and intermediate sewing lessons along with sewing machines to individuals whose lives are changed/enhanced by this new tool and the creative means to mend their lives.
Nationally, we have worked extensively in the Gulf Coast region ever since Hurricane Katrina, supplying over 800 sewing machines to individuals, schools and community groups whose lives/livlihoods are enhanced by this creative tool. In addition, we’ve offered sewing machines to a rescue mission in Montana, and groups given to mending social barriers in Savannah and New Orleans. A high school in New Jersey uses SMP machines to teach new skills to young women who are being given a new chance in life after struggling through poverty and homelessness as teens.
Internationally, we’ve sent machines and supplies to women’s cooperatives and other groups in Mexico, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, India, El Salvador, Guatemala and Liberia helping people in those areas to start small collectives and improve their lives through the art of sewing.
Our recipients are strongly encouraged to say thank you by “paying it forward” in a sewing-related way. This facet of the SMP supports the community and also reminds the recipients that despite their own difficult circumstances, they as individuals are important and capable of making a positive difference in their community, giving them a renewed feeling of self-worth.
Although our main mission is one of supplying tools to those who need them there is a great component of connection as well. Not only does the Sewing Machine Project connect with recipients of machines but there is also an important element of connection between donors and the SMP. Those who donate their working machines feel the importance of the machine’s story gaining a new chapter. Financial donors know that their money will go to support a grassroots cause where every donation makes a difference. Volunteers thrive on the warm connections made when we work together for the common good.
I am proud of this effort. I work with an amazing board of directors and many volunteers and together, we realize the dream of The Sewing Machine Project and offer that dream to those who need it for healing. Everything we do is done with love for I believe that in the end, love is the most powerful force that will change the world.