Pillowcase project helps Foster Closet of Michigan

 Grace Back, left, and Margie Swanney, right, present  their pillowcases to Michelle Austin, center, of the  Foster Closet of Michigan’s Oakland County Branch.

Grace Back, left, and Margie Swanney, right, present their pillowcases to Michelle Austin, center, of the Foster Closet of Michigan’s Oakland County Branch.

Photo provided by Jessica Back


Royal Oak Review | Published November 7, 2017

 Swanney and Back show their pillowcases  to the Sit and Stitch Quilting Group in Clawson.

Swanney and Back show their pillowcases to the Sit and Stitch Quilting Group in Clawson.

Photo provided by Linda Pearce

By Kara Szymanski
C & G Special Writer

ROYAL OAK — Two local Girl Scouts — Grace Back, of Clawson, and Margie Swanney, of Royal Oak — recently earned the Girl Scout Silver Award for their September pillowcase donation project. 

They earned the Silver Award, the second-highest award in Girl Scouting, by identifying a cause and developing a project to make pillowcases to help children in foster care.

The two girls made more than 40 pillowcases to donate to foster children, and they wrote a report on their experience to earn the award.

Grace is a freshman at Clawson High School, and Margie is a freshman at Royal Oak High School.

The girls received fabric donations from the Sit and Stitch Quilt Group in Clawson to make the pillowcases, which the girls donated to the Foster Closet of Michigan in Birmingham. Grace’s grandmother is part of the Sit and Stitch Quilt Group and was able to help the girls find the materials and connect with the group.

“Clawson quilting group, Sit and Stitch, was contacted by Grace Back’s grandmother, Joanne, about participating in a Girl Scout project. Joanne is a member of our group. The group donated several yards of fabric so that the girls could make drawstring bags to donate to the Foster Closet charity. The girls decided pillowcases would be more practical, as they could be used as a bag/tote to carry their personal items in, as well as using them as a pillowcase,” said Linda Pearce, a member of the Clawson quilting group. 

“As a group, we usually have extra fabric available that we share with each other. The members of our group just brought in fabric and gave them the fabric to use for their projects. We only needed to know that one of our members was asking for help with a worthwhile project. Margie and Grace came into our group meeting and presented their request for fabric to make charity items. 

“When they completed their pillowcases, they returned and displayed their pillowcases for us to see. We were very impressed with all the work these Girl Scouts accomplished. It is very satisfying to know that these young ladies are taking up the art of sewing,” said Pearce.

The Foster Closet of Michigan provides clothing, underclothing, toys, shoes, baby equipment, gear and, in some cases, furniture to children placed in the state foster care system. Families are able to come in and pick out their items.

“I had the opportunity to work directly with the Girl Scouts, as they brought their donations in. They contacted us to bring in the donations, and some of the pillowcases were taken by families in need who were at Foster Closet right away, while the two girls were at our location donating.” said Michelle Austin, Foster Closet’s branch manager. 

“The pillowcases are a nice thing for the foster children to have; they give them something to call their own as a personal item. About half of the pillowcases are already being used by families in need,” she said Nov. 3.

Grace and Margie spent 50 hours planning their project, attending meetings, presenting their ideas and plans to Sit and Stitch, and making their pillowcases.

They made the pillowcases by learning to use a sewing machine, and by measuring and cutting them to size.

Their troop leader, Jessica Back — Grace’s mom — connected them to Sit and Stitch through her mother, helped them plan their project, made sure they were on target to reach their goal and directed them to the correct sources.

“As a troop leader, I helped them to plan out the community service and facilitate the plan and make sure they stayed on task while trying to complete their project. They came up with the idea, and I directed them to contact the right groups,” said Jessica Back.

The two girls made 40 pillowcases because it was a number they knew they could reach while also going to school. They made the cases at meetings and at home.

Margie just joined the troop and had a lot of fun doing the project. She learned how to use a sewing machine and how to iron fabric. She said she felt like she had learned a lot and was happy to help children in need.

“You never realize how many people are in need like that until you actually see it,” said Margie.

They chose the Foster Closet of Michigan in Birmingham because they wanted to help a local organization and they liked what they were doing to help children in need.

“It made me more aware of the less fortunate, and while I was there donating, I talked to a girl who was previously in foster care. She was older than me, and the whole project was a good bonding experience for our troop,” said Grace.

The girls plan to make more pillowcases to donate by working with another troop in Troy. They also plan to get the Girl Scout Gold Award by doing a bigger service project, and they recently participated in a food drive.

Call Special Writer Kara Szymanski at (586) 498-1037.