NAPLES – Little girls around the world are smiling and experiencing God’s love through handmade dresses sewn by the volunteer women of Sew Culture ministry.
Emely Pagan started Sew Culture in 2014 after participating in a sewing workshop in her hometown of Naples.
“I thought I was doing really well because I kept getting switched from stations at the workshop until I ended up in the ironing station. Turns out they put me there because I couldn’t sew,” she recalled with a laugh. “I don’t know how to sew, and yet God has called me to a sewing ministry.”
When Pagan learned the women in the workshop were sewing dresses and sending them to little girls in Africa, she felt called to do the same thing for little girls in need in Latin America. There was just the issue of not being able to sew.
Pagan enlisted her sister, the only person she knew who could sew, and together they launched Sew Culture in 2014. Their mission is to bless little girls with something new made just for them. The ministry has grown to 26 volunteers who have sent dresses to many countries in Latin America and to Ukraine, Estonia, Russia and India.
Eight of the volunteers sew, and others decorate, cut fabric, and clean up the workspace. Each dress has the Sew Culture tag and a short message of God’s love.
Until September 2022, Sew Culture operated out of a warehouse near the Naples coast. When Hurricane Ian hit the Florida Gulf Coast, the warehouse flooded, and Sew Culture lost almost all of its inventory.
East Naples Baptist Church then graciously offered Sew Culture one of its mission houses to continue its ministry. Pagan’s husband, JR Pagan, is the associate pastor at East Naples. Royal Palm Network/Association of Churches partnered with the ministry to help build back the lost inventory.
Just this March the ministry started a partnership with One More Child. Through the partnership, Sew Culture has committed to sewing 100 dresses every month that One More Child will then send abroad to little girls in need.
‘God is opening doors, and I am walking right through them.’
“God is opening doors, and I am walking right through them,” Pagan said.
Sew Culture also partners with mission teams to send dresses to the places the teams are going to serve. “We connect with mission teams and ask them about their trip, and we sew as many dresses as necessary for the mission they are going on,” she said.
Pagan’s favorite sewing project was the one the ministry did for girls in Cuba. “When the team heard that we were going to be sewing for Cuban little girls, they got so excited that you would have thought the team members were Cuban, and not one of them is Cuban,” she said.
Recently, the sewers have started to make shorts for boys. “We want the boys to get something new too. We learned that when the girls were receiving their dresses, the boys would be waiting eagerly for something for them too. We don’t want them to be left empty-handed,” she said.
Sew Culture is selective about the fabric used because volunteers want the girls and boys to get the best. The ministry uses 100% cotton fabrics for the dresses and true denim for the boys’ shorts. Nothing goes to waste, with the smaller pieces of fabric used for bows, pockets and headbands.
“We pray over everything that is being made. We want to make a difference in the lives of these children; their smiles are our prize,” Pagan said.
Mission teams interested in taking dresses on their trips can fill out an interest form at sewculture.org.