Shirley Harris uses her sewing talents to lift the spirits of little girls. In less than three years, the 78-year old seamstress has given over 50 girls’ dresses to the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse.
“I just want to make them feel good,” she says, referring to the girls who come to the center because they have experienced abuse. “They may be thinking that nobody cares about them. I want them to feel like a little princess and let them know that somebody cares.”
Shirley, who lives in Mullins, started sewing when she was only eight years old, making doll clothes. Now, she has been stitching for 70 years and loves it.
She had two boys whom she sewed for, but when she had a granddaughter she really went crazy on the sewing machine, she said. As her granddaughter got older, she didn’t sew as much for her. But, she had collected lots of fabric, as all seamstresses do, filling three trunks.
“I thought, I can’t use all that fabric. What can I do with it?” she said.
Well, feeling like there was an angel sitting on her shoulder, she heard “Do something for somebody in need.”
Shirley remembered the neighbor that helped her when she was young. It was during WWII when everything was scarce, including material. There was an important event coming up where the girls wore evening gowns and Shirley didn’t have one. This neighbor supplied her mom with material and netting for her gown. It was this memory that inspired her to sew dresses for girls.
So, about 10 years ago, she started taking her handmade dresses to Epworth Methodist Children’s Home in Columbia. Although she found it very rewarding, the trip became more stressful as she got older. So, she decided to give her dresses to the Pee Dee Coalition.
Shirley does her handwork at night or on rainy days, and stitches on her sewing machine during the day when the sun is shining.
Her family says she can design a whole outfit around a single button.
She considers her time sewing for the girls as a gift to God.
“It is a way to give of myself,” she explained. “If this little thing that I enjoy doing can make a difference, then it’s important.”
Although Shirley doesn’t see the results from her labors, she has enough faith to believe that they will make a difference in someone’s life.
“I am blessed,” she said.