By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN - “I cannot go and fight,” said Wanda Werner of Howard Lake, “but I can do this for those who do the fighting.”
Werner is speaking in reference to a volunteer service she provides that benefits wounded servicemen and women of all branches of the military and National Guard.
She has recently joined a nationally recognized non-profit organization called Sew Much Comfort. Sew Much Comfort provides adaptive clothing, free of charge, to wounded service members at military hospitals.
Garments are designed to open along the seams with Velcro used as the closure. Shirts, boxer shorts, and athletic shorts can be completely opened either on the right side, left side, or both sides.
Werner is authorized to adapt T-shirts, polo shirts, and athletic shorts. In order to become authorized, Werner had to sew one of each and send it in for a quality check.
Once a seamstress passes the quality check, all future completed garments can be mailed directly to the distribution center, Werner said.
“Because the garments come apart at the Velcro closure, if the service member has a brace or a cast, or maybe a shoulder injury, they can get dressed by themselves,” Werner explained.
For many service members, only drafty hospital gowns are available, which do not cover properly and are impractical during recovery.
Sew Much Comfort started in 2004 with a small group of Minnesota seamstresses who agreed to help sew adaptive clothing for troops. The group’s hope was to provide 100 pair of fixator pants by April 2005, and then be done with the project.
The group was featured in Sew News magazine in March 2005, which resulted in 600 seamstresses who volunteered to help make the adaptive clothing.
Since then, Sew Much Comfort has provided more than 75,000 garments to the wounded. It has shipped garments to 97 combat medical units, military hospitals, clinics, and wounded warrior barracks in the US, Landstuhl Germany, and combat medical units in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, according to the organization’s web site www.sewmuchcomfort.org.
The organization’s mission statement is “to provide custom-made adaptive clothing, free of charge, to our injured service members which aides in their recovery, provides a tangible reminder of our gratitude for their sacrifice and gives them an added measure of comfort and freedom as they recover from their injuries and return to everyday life. Adaptive clothing accommodates their medical devices and situations, provides ease of use, increases personal independence and minimizes the visual impact of their medical condition.”
Werner found out about the organization while participating in a sew-a-thon sponsored by the Fabric Warehouse in Willmar. She has volunteered her time and talents for sew-a-thons that benefit troops including making pillow cases and fleece socks.
“They were saying (at the sew-a-thon) that when wounded military members are transported, they sometimes end up in the cargo area, and get a little cold,” Werner explained.
The fleece socks were made to benefit those troops in transit.
Werner and her husband, Rod, used to run a hardware store in Howard Lake.
“Now that I’m retired, I like to keep busy. Doing this makes me feel worthwhile in helping a good cause. It’s my charity,” Werner explained. “Knowing that you have made a difference for someone whose life has been horrendously altered is rewarding.”
Sew Much Comfort provides all the Velcro, snaps, and bias tape, but the volunteer seamstresses need to supply the garments, thread, and postage to send the completed clothing, not to mention providing their time and talents.
Because of the costs, Werner approached several Howard Lake businesses, as well as the Waverly Lions Club for monetary donations.
“The organization is a little picky about the kinds of shirts we modify, so that’s why I’ve mostly sought monetary donations,” Werner explained.
She was thrilled to receive generous donations from the following businesses, clubs, and individuals: Howard Lake Lions Club, $100; Howard Lake Legion members Denny Frey, $20; Ron Miller, $25; and Art Jordan, $20; Waverly Lions Club, $500; Target, $25 gift card; and the Howard Lake Legion Auxiliary has volunteered to pay for all postage expenses for shipping the garments. Additionally, the Howard Lake Legion donated $100 directly to Sew Much Comfort, which will help with the cost of supplies, Werner added.
“I tremendously appreciate Carol Hayner of C & C Embroidery who has been very helpful to me with donations and letting me purchase garments with her for an exceptional cost, which has made it possible for me to get a lot more product for the money,” Werner said.
Werner has completed 25 garments, and has 30 shorts to do, as well as 40 more T-shirts.
Werner expects this to be an ongoing charity for her to participate in and is looking to recruit interested seamstresses to help her and join in the cause.
Donations are always welcome, as well. Werner can be contacted at (320) 543-3576.