Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Jan. 28, 2002

Sisters make old dolls new again

By Julie Yurek

The legacy of restoring dolls for charity lives on through two sisters, Lyd Laxen and Sophie Juncewski of Winsted.

The tradition started more than 10 years ago, when another sister, Helen Zanoth, started collecting and redoing dolls for charity.

This changed a couple of years ago, when she gave Laxen and Juncewski boxes of dolls so they could help her get them done. They've been doing it ever since.

The dolls that Laxen and Juncewski receive are old, usually very dirty, and sometimes falling apart.

How does this transformation from old to new happen? The first thing they do is wash the hair.

Expensive shampoo with conditioner must be used. The cheaper stuff doesn't work as well, they said.

Once they've done the shampooing, Laxen and Juncewski brush the hair; sometimes for hours. Then, using hot curlers and lots of hairspray, the hair is styled.

If the hair can't be tamed? "Well, then I just give her a haircut," Juncewski said.

Then the doll gets a bath. The ladies say the face is the hardest to wash because of the little nooks and crannies around the nose and ears.

They've had to use a toothpick to get all the dirt out of little spaces.

Once the hair and bath is done, the ladies move on to the clothing. They make the clothes out of everything, ranging from old shirts to donated bridesmaids dresses. Purses make great boots and hand bags, Juncewski said.

Laxen and Juncewski have also sold some dolls for money. "We need money for supplies such as ribbon," Laxen said.

The price depends on the size of the doll and how much work it needed, Laxen said.

"We can always use lace and fabric, if people want to get rid of it," Laxen said.

The worst shape they've ever seen was a doll that Helen received, which had been plowed up in a field.

Out of all the dolls they've done so far, Laxen and Juncewski said they've only had to throw away two or three.

"We'd rather be the ones to throw them away, instead of the owner. One person might think the doll is no good anymore, but we've fixed up some pretty bad ones," Laxen said.

The "new" dolls go to local charities, Laxen said. There are about five organizations that take them, including the Holy Trinity fall festival bazaar and the Make A Difference Tree.

The ladies set up a table at the bazaar and sell dolls. The money goes to the bazaar proceeds.

Nearly 25 dolls went to the Adult Training and Habilitation Center for the children on that tree this year, said executive director Steve Wilson.

When Helen did the dolls alone, they would be taken to Hutchinson, and then to the Twin Cities, to be delivered among charities there.

The ladies knew there were children in the Winsted area who didn't have anything for Christmas, so they decided to keep the dolls for local charities and organizations.

They have never met a child who received a doll, however. It probably isn't likely, the women said.

There are issues with privacy when it comes to donating to children, they said.

However, they would like to "see the child's face light up" ­ if this was possible, Juncewski said.

Laxen and Juncewski get dolls a couple of ways. The Worn-a-bit shop in Winsted give Laxen and Juncewski the dolls for free because they know the dolls are for charity, Laxen said.

Laxen's daughter, Dee Green, and Green's friend Ann Marie, live in Washington and they send Laxen all kinds of dolls, such as life-sized dolls. Laxen and Juncewski use those tall, bigger ones as brides.

Her daughter and friend buy the big dolls from stores and mail boxes of them to Laxen.

"We get many dolls from Dee and Ann Marie," Laxen said.

Juncewski has a bride doll dressed in a replica of her wedding dress. The details are exactly the same and she used her dress as material.

Both Laxen and Juncewski have made special dolls for close family. Laxen made a replica of her daughter, Dee's, wedding dress and then gave it to her as a keepsake.

Some people have come to the women asking them if they would custom-make a doll for them. They would like to fill all the requests, but they usually say no, the ladies said.

They wouldn't have time to make the dolls for charity. "We don't want to take away from the dolls that are going to the children," the women said.

The request is usually for a bride doll made out of a person's wedding dress, Laxen said.

"I have to see the old dress to picture how I'm going to make it for the doll," Laxen said.

Each lady has a few dolls that she keeps. Juncewski will never give up the bride wearing her wedding dress. Laxen keeps a few of the unusual ones, like the doll with the light-up crown.

"There are some we would like to keep to enjoy," Juncewski said.

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