The Sewing Machine Project was well-received at a presentation made to the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison on Monday, June 4. The members of the Club heard the history of the Project as well as future plans. The following article appeared in the Kiwanis newsletter the following day:

kmunicator2.jpgThe Sewing Machine Project
Changing the world, one day (and one sewing machine) at a time!

By any measure, Margaret Jankowski is a remarkable person. A UW (Madison) graduate, married with two children, and employed as a salesperson and sewing instructor at Hans’ Sewing Machines in Monona, this attractive, willowy woman has found a way to funnel her love of sewing with her obvious love (and empathy) for people.
This story began with a story Jankowski heard about another woman who not only lived thousands of miles away in Sri Lanka, but whom Jankowski had never met. The Southeast Asian woman was one of the countless thousands who had been victimized by the 2004 earthquake underneath the Indian Ocean that created the ill-famed, devastating tsunami, but there was something about this particular victim’s story that had caught Margaret’s attention, she told the Downtown Madison Kiwanians at their meeting on June 4.
“It was that she’d lost her sewing machine,” Margaret said. “The story I read said she’d been supporting her whole family by sewing, but the tsunami carried her livlihood away.”
Margaret, who had received her first Singer sewing machine at age 10 from her mother, decided to do something about it. She told her friends, including KCDM member Bob Miller, about the Asian woman’s plight, and with their help ended up with some 25 sewing machines, some fabrics and threads, and even some cash to pay the freight charges to deliver the machines to Sri Lanka. The machines were received with gratitude by the intended recipients, including the seamstress whose machine had been stolen by the storm.
Then came the deluge in New Orleans in early 2005. The storm that grew into Hurricane Katrina actually originated in the Atlantic. Its path led into the legendary New Orleans city. The city’s below sea level situs was strike one, but the neglected, inadequate levees was an immediate strike two. People died and animals died, both to float in the floodwaters that were literally drowning the city. Houses were inundated, in some cases to their very rooftops. People were injured, sick and homeless; disease was a constant peril; jails were emptied, nursing care facilities were abandoned. Water was everywhere. Safe drinking water was nowhere. The saints weren’t marching in New Orleans on that night of terror, only devils, and strike three, of course was the inept state and federal government response to the storm’s onslaught.
But the Sewing Machine Angel was ready. She viewed the site a few days later and was able to make a local connection with Grace Episcopal Church of New Orleans. And once again, there was a need for sewing machines.
Margaret Jankowski showed power point pictures of the aftermath of New Orleans hurricane disaster. But her pictures also showed New Orleans residents, the ones who had survived, and stayed. It showed their pride in themselves and their city, and their determination and courage to continue to fight for their survival and for their city.
And then the pictures began to show a different emotion on the faces of some 200 New Orleans people lined up outside Grace Church, an emotion of elation and joy. The cause? 260 donated sewing machines laid out neatly on tables in Grace Church, with counselors there ready to help match a particular machine with the donee’s need. Donated fabrics and thread were there as well.
“Take what you need, but don’t take more,” Margaret cautioned the waiting women. “That’s just like the Bible,” responded one, “Don’t take more than you need.”
And they didn’t. But they did take enough for immediate needs – to make new clothes from old cloth, to repair old clothes and make them look new – or at least be functional. Maybe even enough to make a costume or two to help with school plays in a school system trying to rebound.
And Margaret Jankowski? She’s incorporated her charitable project into a genuine IRS Code 501(c)3 organization to which tax-deductible donations can be made. It’s called “The Sewing Machine Project, Inc.” And if Margaret has her way, it’ll be equipped to operate worldwide. It’s even got its own website –
So what’s Margaret thinking about doing next? She’s thinking about a fundraiser for the new charitable non-profit corporation. College kids used to call them “keggers” – for $20 bucks you get a cup with your name on it and all the beer you can drink (until the kegs run dry).
Interested? Bob Miller will let you know where and when. He’s the one who introduced Margaret to her KCDM audience on June 4. And Margaret’s one of his best friends.

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