By Sunny Schubert (reprinted from Herald Independant 6/28/07)
The “in” place to be in Monona last Saturday night was the fabulous lakeside home – also known as “The Old Bohrod Place” – of Tori and Dennis Hull. The occasion was a fundraiser they hosted for neighbor Margaret Jankowski’s Sewing Machine Project. More than 60 people showed up to eat, drink and contribute more than enough money to get Margaret’s show back on the road.
Margaret came up with the Sewing Machine Project back in 2005. “I read an article about a woman in Sri Lanka who had lost her sewing machine in the tsunami. She was devastated – not only did she use the machine to make her family’s clothes, but she supported them with her sewing,” Margaret said. Because she works at Hans’ Sewing Center on Willy Street, Margaret had access to some used sewing machines, so she started collecting them to send to Sri Lanka in partnership with the American Hindu Association.
Then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Margaret shifted her focus from the Indian Ocean to Louisiana. In the past two years, she’s made four trips to the Big Easy, delivering more than 300 sewing machines. Now she’s working on getting the women who received the machines to “pay it forward” by teaching others how to sew in schools and community centers, or by making items for hospitals. She’s hoping to help men and women in that flood-devastated city start their own sewing-related businesses.
The Sewing Machine Project operated under the charitable auspices of the Kiwanis Club, but it’ growing so fast, Margaret wanted to set up her own 501(c)3 charitable corporation. Saturday’s fundraiser brought in more than enough money to pay her legal fees and incorporation costs, plus bankroll another trip to NO.
This is a good cause, with no overhead. Hotels donate rooms when Margaret goes to NO; and her colleagues at Hans’ refurbish the machines for free. Even her website – www.thesewingmachineproject.org – was donated.
“I was sitting in a bar watching the Super Bowl, and got talking with this guy sitting next to me. He ended up having his web designer make me a website,” she said.
Monday morning, Margaret was still dealing with the emotions aroused by Saturday’s fundraiser. “I cannot believe the warmth and support that I ahve gotten. It is overwhelming to me. It’s very cool,” she said.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that Margaret’s prowess with a sewing machine saved my sorry butt once. I had foolishly volunteered to make 15 serapes for the Girl Scout troop to which my daughter Hayley and Margaret’s daughter Maddie both belonged. Naturally, my ancient sewing machine quit working before I’d finished even one. Margaret finished the whole batch. I just found out last week that the serapes are still in troop leader Mary O’Connor’s closet. If anyone has a use for them, give me a call.