A non-profit group that provides garments for deceased infants is looking for volunteers.
BC Angel Dresses collects wedding, prom and grad gowns and turns them into dresses for families who are grieving the loss of their little angel. The organization currently needs volunteers in the Castlegar area who can collect and store donated gowns, and volunteers who can sew angel dresses.
“We have 107 volunteers across the province and those are dress collectors [and] seamstresses, and we have broken the province up into areas so we have an area rep for each area within the province,” explains Bobby-Jo Kowalski, co-founder of BC Angel Dresses. “But what we really need are those dress collectors and seamstresses.”
Dress collectors meet with dress donors in their area and store the dresses until the seamstresses are ready for them. Kowalski says the collectors don’t need to put aside that much extra room for the dresses.
“[It] can be a garbage bag’s worth of room or a plastic bin’s worth of room; it doesn’t need to be like a spare bedroom to house hundreds of dresses,” she says.
Once the dress collector has filled the space they have set aside for the dresses, they can can contact their area rep who will try to move the dresses along to a seamstress.
As for the seamstresses, they can donate as much time a week as their schedule allows, whether that’s 10 hours or 40 hours.
“It is quite emotional when you start breaking down what you’re doing and who you are doing it for,” says Kowalski. “It sometimes can take people a long time. The average wedding dress takes anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to completely transform, so to take it from a donated gown to angel dresses that are ready to go to the hospitals.”
Depending on how much time someone can commit to per week, 20 to 40 hours can take a while, which is why BC Angel Dresses needs more seamstresses to help out so that they can provide more dresses.
The angel dresses are distributed to hospitals and organizations, and are provided to families free of charge. They are designed to open in the back and close with ties, so that they can easily be placed on the baby, and are made for both girls and boys.
“Some seamstresses will maybe use a coloured grad dress to make a vest or a bow tie, so to speak, and put that on a dress,” explains Kowalski.
Becky Panter started Saskatchewan Angel Dresses in May 2014, and later that month Kowalski and her mother-in-law Sandy Kowalski started the BC chapter. Both Kowalski and her mother-in-law know what it’s like to suffer a loss.
“I have lost four babies myself and this is part of my grieving process, part of my healing process to be able to help other families that are going through the most traumatic experience of their lives,” says Kowalski. “I myself didn’t get past the emergency room on all four of my losses.”
Both Kowalskis understand firsthand what families go through when they are grieving the loss of a child who never got to come home, and they wanted to do something to help families during that time.
“Without Angel Dresses, quite often families that are in this terrible, traumatic moment are left with either their baby in a towel or a face cloth or having to try to figure out what will they pay their last respects to their child in,” says Kowalski.