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And sew on...

WORTHINGTON -- There was a lot of talking and laughing, along with pizza, soft drinks and sweets -- elements that are common to just about any pajama party.

But the purpose of this party wasn't to stay up all night and giggle about boys. At the eighth annual Pajama Party Saturday at the American Reformed Church in Worthington, the business at hand was making pajamas for a worthy cause -- the Worthington Community Christmas Basket program.

By the end of the day, about 60 volunteers would have constructed more than 100 pairs of pajamas from scratch. Beginning at 9 a.m., the gym was bustling with activity, as various groups of women cut, stitched and applied the finishing touches to the garments.

The project was conceived and organized by Roxanne Hayenga, owner of Textile Treasures, a fabric shop in downtown Worthington. Initially, she thought it would be a creative way of getting rid of some extra fabric inventory and helping out a local organization, but since then it's grown into a much larger endeavor.

"That first year, we only made 75 pairs of pajamas," she remembered. "Every year since then, the goal has been 104 or more each year. So that means that there have been at least 850 pairs that we donated."

All constructed from knit materials, the pajamas range in size from small child to extra large adult. Hayenga has been told that the pajamas are popular items at the annual Christmas Basket distribution event, and there are never any left.

Besides the volunteers who offer their time, monetary donations from people in the community help pay for the supplies, Hayenga explained.

"I have some suppliers who will donate their extra inventory for the cost of the freight," she said. "The TAC and Bibles for Missions stores keep an eye out for pieces of material that will be big enough, and then there are people who go through their fabric stashes and bring in pieces that we can use. I had one lady who brought in five bags of juvenile prints. She said her grandchildren were too old for them now, and she got tired of moving the box around. She didn't want to wait to have great-grandchildren to use them."

The number of volunteers fluctuates from year to year, but this year there were plenty, and Hayenga hoped to wrap up the sewing by late afternoon. Some volunteers return year after year, and a few new ones are recruited to fill out the ranks. People's services are utilized where they are needed most.

Veteran volunteer Marie Weeks, Worthington, was stationed at a table where some of the larger pajamas were being cut out, but she hasn't always been on the cutting crew.

"Last year I was a sewer and got to sit down," she said. "But we get done sooner this way."

The cutting job also offered more opportunities for conversation and getting to know some of her fellow volunteers, such as Mary Ann Pomerenke from Lakefield. Pomerenke heard about the project while shopping at Textile Treasures.

"I thought it sounded like a good idea," she said. "I've only been here twice, but it's fun."

A faithful Pajama Party participant, Lydia Pronk, Worthington, has always been stationed in quality control, a job that involves adding elastic to each pajama bottom waistband as well as checking the seams and clipping stray threads. Although she doesn't sew much now, Pronk once was an avid seamstress and knew what to check for as she carefully went over each garment.

"I even sewed my oldest daughter's wedding dress," she said. "But I don't do any of that anymore."

According to Hayenga, this year's group of volunteers ranged in age from 8 to 88, with the youngest being Ellie Gordon, 8, of rural Worthington, who accompanied mom Jill to the Pajama Party. Ellie's job was "runner."

"I take the clothes (from one station) and give them to the people who need them," she explained.

A new element and a new cause were added to the Pajama Party endeavor this year. Larger scraps of material left were also carefully cut and assembled into turban kits. The resulting turbans will be donated for patients at the Radiation Oncology Center that is currently under construction at Worthington Regional Hospital.

"We will have the kits available at the store for people to pick up and sew," Hayenga said. "It's a very easy project, and you can use either a serger or a regular sewing machine. I was doing a serger class at the store, and the last month we met, we did the turbans as a project, so we already have 20 turbans that are already sewed. Hopefully, we'll get a lot more."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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