This past weekend, my family surprised me by celebrating my early August birthday since we won’t be together on my day. We had fun just hanging out, making a shrimp boil dinner together, eating cake and making homemade Oreo ice cream. YUM!
Whenever our two children ask me what I would like for a gift, I mainly say, “Just a note from you.”
I consider the notes and cards I have accumulated over the years as great treasures in my life. I enjoy looking over them again and again.
Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other- it doesn’t matter who it is- and that will help us all to grow in greater love for each other.”
Leah also gave me a small wrapped package, a gift in which I have truly grown attached to as I have researched the origin of this love gift. A small bag just big enough for my cell phone, my license, and some cash, was handmade by an Artisan Threader, from Iraq, by the name of Ameena. Leah knew I would love this special and unique gift because I am always looking for little and big ways to make a difference.
“Four years ago, Denise Smith had just returned from six years with her husband and their jobs in Beirut. Life in Lebanon had left her feeling out of place back in Georgia. She pondered and prayed on what meaning her life might take when her church, Grace (Snellville) called her and asked if she would come speak to a group of refugee women, most of whom only spoke Arabic.
She agreed and began to ponder and pray on what she could offer them. The plan revealed itself in her trusty old sewing machine. “I took it everywhere with me,” says Denise. “I am never without it.”
Denise first called the manager of the apartment building that housed many of the women. “I asked if they might be interested in learning to sew,” says Denise. “His enthusiastic answer was, ‘YES!’”. Denise made some calls to friends to gather scraps of fabric and ended up with a few sewing machines as well.
That first meeting began a journey that became the answer to many prayers. The prayers of women who have fled horrific conditions and only want one small opportunity to make a living, raise good children and BE American, as well as the prayers of a woman who wanted to know what she should do with herself. Peace of Thread was born of these prayers.
The designer accessories company provides training, language lessons, fellowship and jobs for women who have made their way from upheaval and threat to a place they can breathe and make a new life out of the patches of their former selves. The words from their website read: “Peace of Thread is a not for profit organization that empowers women who have come to the United States seeking refuge from war, persecution and poverty to make a new life for themselves and their family. The women of Peace of Thread hand make high quality and one-of-a-kind accessories using top-of-the-line, refurbished fabric. Their mission is to “promote the exchanging of cultures and the international development of women in vulnerable populations by teaching and improving life, business, and language skills through the platform of designing and sewing “one-of-a-kind” purses, bags, and accessories using re-purposed materials and to engage in activities which are necessary.”
Founder, Denise Smith seeks to bring Eastern and Western women together to foster fellowship and peace. “Women need work to contribute to their economy and support their families,” says Denise. Through sewing and mending, the physical, emotional and spiritual pieces of each woman are mended as well. “God is peace and we are all people of peace,” says Denise. “Each of these women want just one small chance to learn a craft and be able to contribute to their household needs.”[pullquote]
We show the beauty of each woman by designing the inside of each bag even more beautifully than the outside and teach the women that they were designed in this very same way.”
Founder and CEO of Peace of Thread[/pullquote]
The need for sponsors is endless. Each woman who enters the program is given a sewing machine, thread, needles, patterns and scraps of fabric. The majority of the fabric comes from the Atlanta Decorative Art Center and are scraps from the finest interior design products in the world. Parisian silks, Belgium patterns and countless more of the world’s loveliest fabrics are cast aside after becoming pillows, upholstery, and curtains. These incredible fabric scraps are designed and sewn into amazing bags that show the heart and soul of the artist. “To turn our bags inside out, you will find beautifully appointed fabrics that complement each other,” says Denise. “They are just like the women who sew them, beautiful inside and out.” (and truly the small bag Leah gave to me is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside)
Inside the pockets of each bag is tucked a card that tells the story of each artisan. “Six of our women have graduated Level 12 English which means they can read to their own child a story or understand the papers that come home from school,” says Denise. “Education is power for the formerly unemployable.” Each woman has a means for an income and desire to live “West alongside East”. “By understanding the gaps in culture, the women shed fears and become good American Citizens,” says Denise. “They will not be going back to their birth countries, so they need to belong here.”
Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in a world all of your own.”
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)[/pullquote]
Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
Booker T. Washington, (1856-1915)[/pullquote]
Remaining true to her mission and relying on prayer, Denise Smith and her volunteers work hard to ensure that those who want to find a way to support themselves and their families are able to do so. Volunteers are needed for all manner of roles. Watching the children of the trainees during classes is important. Transportation to the training center is always needed. “You don’t need to know how to sew in order to help,” says Denise. “We can always use more volunteers.” To order a bag or learn how you can help, visit the website, www.peaceofthread.com.” (from a recent Gwinnett Citizen article by Beth Volpert-Johansen, click here to read more)
Purchasing bags straight off their website for yourself and for gifts can have a huge impact.
Located in Clarkston, Georgia, some of the volunteer opportunities mentioned on their website include:
selects fabrics for making bags; is familiar with different kinds of fabrics and textiles and/or has sewing knowledge.
uses patterns to cut the fabric after it has been selected by a designer.
organizes and categorizes fabrics according to style and seasons, or cuts pieces of fabric for scraps and to make business cards; keeps the design studio organized and in a clean manner.
ensures that patterns are cut properly and that instructions are clearly labeled on them.
How about you and I?
How are we impacting those in our daily path in small or big ways? As I have said many times before, even a smile or a kind word to someone we cross paths with can brighten a day…potentially theirs AND ours.
Are you still looking for your “purpose“, the way or ways you can make a positive difference with this one life you’ve been given???
Let’s all start today in our own families, then moving beyond as we feel led.
This story about how Denise Smith founded Peace of Thread inspires me to reach out more to those less fortunate than me, and I hope it will do the same for you.