Sep. 27—NORTH POWDER — Linda Dixon received some unexpected news early this month when she rode her bike to the North Powder post office to pick up her mail.
Dixon was told she had received five packages that were so big she would have to come back with her car to get them. Dixon did not know that this was the start of something big — very big.
The five packages were filled with pillowcases. They had been mailed to Dixon in response to a small ad that appeared in the September issue of Ruralite magazine, published by Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative. The four sentence ad, submitted by Dixon, asked people to send donated pillowcases to her so that they could be made into dresses for girls in Africa who are in need. Dixon did not anticipate a big response to the ad.
"I thought we would get 30 or 40 pillowcases," she said.
Since the Ruralite ad appeared, people have sent 451 pillowcases to Dixon.
"It has been overwhelming but exciting," she said.
The biggest single contributor was the Target Cooperation, which sent 37 pillowcases. Target, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, operates about 1,800 retail stores in the United States.
Personal donations of pillowcases have arrived from throughout the Northwest plus Arizona and California. Many of the donations have striking artistic features and are hand embroidered.
"They make beautiful dresses," Dixon said.
Thirty-five of the pillowcases were made into dresses on Wednesday, Sept. 22, by Dixon and seven volunteers at a sewing bee, the first of many to be conducted for the project. The women who are sewing the dresses, in addition to Dixon, include Wynn Nielsen, Carol Bouchard, Cecilia Lovely, Kay Patterson, Barbara Campbell, Sherry Hart and Dottie Miles. Dixon said the group will continue sewing pillowcases until all of them are made into dresses. Each pillowcase provides enough material for a single dress.
Hart said the pillow project work is enjoyable and fulfilling.
"We start with nothing and turn out something very pretty," she said.
The members of the sewing group are good friends who enjoy doing community service work. Patterson said they are a joy to work with.
"You just can't find any better people," she said.
The members of the sewing group all know each other, Dixon said, because they also work as volunteers at North Powder's food bank, which she manages with her husband, Floyd. The dresses the eight women are sewing will be given to Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian aid organization that sends dresses to Africa as part of its Operation Christmas Child program.
Dixon anticipates that North Powder's sewing group will be working though November until all of the pillowcases are made into dresses.
Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.