Doryce Fitzgerald had never heard of Sew Powerful until her favorite quilt shop newsletter featured Sew Powerful earlier this year. When she read the article, the light bulb went off and soon Doryce and friends were off and running. In less than six months, the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild's 81 members, with a little help from their friends, churned out 126 purses. Making it a true family affair, Doryce's daughter and son in law made a very generous donation to cover the cost of labor and materials for all those purses. Purse makers and members of quilt guilds everywhere will enjoy hearing how Doryce sponsored and supported Sew Powerful to get this project off the ground for 2021. Spoiler alert: We are on their books for 2022 also.
Meet Doryce Fitzgerald of the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild
IN THIS EPISODE
Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild, Turtle Camp, Veterans Hospital, guide dogs, Habitat for Humanity, purse kits, note cards, financial donations, purses, quilters, Sew Powerful
Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild, https://scvquiltguild.org/
Paul Newman’s Turtle Camp, https://www.thepaintedturtle.org/
Veteran’s Hospital of Los Angeles, https://www.losangeles.va.gov/
Guide Dogs of America, https://www.guidedogsofamerica.org/
Habitat for Humanity, https://www.habitatla.org/
Quilty Pleasures Quilt Shop, Simi Valley, CA, https://www.quiltypleasuressimivalley.com/
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Doryce Fitzgerald
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello, Sew Powerful Podcast listeners. Today we're speaking with Doryce Fitzgerald and Doryce came to our attention because she is a member of a quilt guild that sent in an astronomical number of purses, and they were presented at the August Go-Live. So, we're going to learn a little bit about Doryce and how she was able to influence her quilt guild to make all these purses and what the quilt guild is all about. So let's get started. Hello, Doryce. How are you today?
Doryce Fitzgerald, Guest 00:52
I'm very well, thank you.
And where are we talking to you from? Where are you?
I'm in Santa Clarita, California. And it's a little bit north of LA. It's in LA.
Okay. All right. Very good. And how is your weather there today?
It's windy today, though. Not too hot. So, we'll see.
Yeah, very nice. Very nice. Tell me a little bit about your profession. Are you retired now?
Yes. I'm a retired teacher. I've been retired for five years.
And what did you teach?
I tried elementary school, mostly second and third grade.
Oh, wow. That sounds like a really fun age where they're still attentive and eager to go to school and haven't gotten cynical yet. Or am I wrong?
I like them.
And, what are some of your hobbies? I presume you're a quilter. Is that right?
That's correct. I'm a quilter. And I'd like to do a lot of reading and jigsaw puzzles and do some hiking and walking.
Okay. And so earlier this year, you became aware of Sew Powerful, right?
You didn't know about it before this year?
I did not.
So how did that all come about?
One of the newsletters I get is from a quilt store in Simi Valley called Quilty Pleasures.
Oh, and stop you because that is like the most clever name ever. Quilty Pleasures, okay.
And they send out their newsletter on Sundays. And in their newsletter, they highlighted Sew Powerful. At the time when I read it, I thought that they were collecting purses, but they were just getting the information out to people.
Okay, and so you read about Sew Powerful in the newsletter, and then you and a friend were talking about it right?
That's correct. I walked with a friend who's also a quilter, who at the time wasn't a member, the guild has joined since then. And the two of us had just read Melinda Gates book called "Moment of Lift". And she does a lot of work with with girls in Africa. And she said, oh, did you read about Sew Powerful? She said that'd be a very Melinda Gates thing to do. We should do that.
And you said?
I said, well, let's try it out first because the when you look at the directions, there's a lot of directions to make the purse because they're so in depth, which is great. And so, I tried one out made one and said yeah, we could do this. Let's let's go ahead and get started. So, she and I got together and made a couple of purses. And she said, well, you should take this to the guild or to one of your mini groups.
And and so did you take the beginner purse, the one with the plain flap or the one with a pocket on the flap?
We made the beginning purse.
Okay. Yeah, you know, and that one came up after the intermediate purse. And so many of us switched over to that one because we like that real estate on the front to do lots of fun things with. Okay, so you and your friend made two purchases. What did you decide to do with those two purses?
Well, we just held on to it to start with. And I found out that the treasurer of our guild, Penny Lawrence, had also sent that article into the board. And so, when I started to talk to to different people about it they already had some background, and it seems like two people seems to be the catalyst to get things going.
Sure, absolutely. And why don't we give a shout out to your quilt guild? What is its name? Say it so that people can look it up.
It's the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild. And we do have a webpage and the webpage shows, there's pictures, there's pictures of our opportunity quilts. There's a list of all the community service and things that we donate to. There's a block of the month; there's information about joining. There's pictures; there's some informational videos, improving your quilting skills.
How cool is that? Now you mentioned other projects that your guild has done. So besides Sew Powerful, can you tell us some of the other things that you've done? Who else has benefited from your work?
So we work with Turtle Camp. Turtle Camp, it, there's one in Lake Elizabeth out here and it's part of the Paul Newman group of camps for kids with illnesses and each child who comes to camp, takes home a quilt. And they have parent weekends, and their siblings get quilts so we're one of the quilt guilds that donate to that. We also do pillowcases for them. We do the Veterans Hospital of Los Angeles; we make pillow we make bed quilts and wheelchair quilts for them. We work with the Senior Center in Santa Clarita Valley, the Pregnancy Center, Guide Dogs of America. Habitat for Humanity did homes in Santa Clarita for veterans, and we make quilts and every time a veteran got a home they'd have to pick out a quilt for their home. We provide quilts for the sheriff's department, quilts and pillows for children that are picked up from domestic abuse.
Wow, well Sew Powerful was so honored to be included among that very impressive group of recipients. That is just amazing. You all must have to just worked your fingers to the bone fulltime to make all these quilts. So how long has the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild been in existence? When did it start?
It started in 1990. In March of 1990 was when it was established. It was established with just six members. And at one point it was over 100. And now we're at about 81.
Wow, well, that's a big size. And do you meet in person or virtually or...?
When there's not a pandemic, we meet once a month, we meet on the second Thursday of the month. And some months we have a speaker, usually followed by a class so the speaker speaks on Thursday night, and then there's a class with that speaker on Saturday. Sometimes we do community service. Sometimes we have some game nights and, and things like that.
Wow. Well that's that sounds really, really fun. How long have you been a member, Doryce?
I've been a member since 2017. So, four years.
And how did you get involved?
Well, I've been a sewer and I like to quilt and once I retired it was something that I want to get involved with. And it's a great group. There's quilters out there they know i think that all quilters are a great group of people but it's a great group of people to be with and, and a good way to spend your time.
Well, I might be throwing you for a ringer here but if I look over your left shoulder, I think I see some award ribbons back there. Are those for your quilts?
Those ribbons were from a quilt show we had three years ago, and I won People's Choice.
Yeah, and Chairperson's Choice.
Oh good. Oh, very nice. Well, congratulations. I think sort of observed that and at first, I thought that little white doodad thing was maybe a little flower and then I look closer, and I realized it was a ribbon. So, you've been sewing for a while. When did you learn to sew?
I learned to sew in junior high when they still made you do that.
Then in seventh grade, you had to take a semester of cooking and a semester of sewing. You took sewing first; you made a gingham bib apron. And then you got a choice of making a jumper or a skirt. And I think I finished those projects pretty early and then I made another skirt from a pattern that I liked better, and I took off from there.
I think everybody's mom has one of those gingham aprons. You are in very good company [with] people who make Sew Powerful purses, I have to say.
Okay, what we're going to do is take a quick break and listeners, when we come back, we're going to hear what the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild thought about the two purses that Doryce made and what happened after that. So please stay tuned.
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Welcome back. We have been speaking with Doryce, and she's coming to us from California where her quilt guild sent in an astonishing number of purses earlier this year and the box was held up at our August Go-Live. And we've been learning about the history of the guild and how Doryce found out about Sew Powerful to begin with. So Doryce, you and your friend made two purses; the board had heard about Sew Powerful through the newsletter from, and I just love saying this, The Quilty Pleasures Quilt Shop, and somebody made a decision that this was a good project for you all to participate in. What was that process like?
Well I showed it to a couple of board members and told them that I was interested and thought that we should do it and they really wanted to do it. And one of the board members, Carol Carter, said we really want this to be free to our our members. So, when we have a speaker come, we pay that speaker when she that speaker does a class, that class costs also. So, I want it to be at no cost. So, no cost for the class and I want to put together kits so that everybody has all the materials that they need. So my mini group, Monday Mavens, got together found we always have fabric that's been donated. One of our quilt maven members who wasn't going to be able to be there, she was absent, said I have a gift card from Joanne's that I haven't used. I'm going to go get the interfacing. So, she did that. One of our local stores, Rye Canyon Supply, offered to sell us the webbing for the straps, at their cost. So we started gathering supplies; different people volunteered to wash the fabric. And we got together on one morning and cut half yard of fabric and half yard of lining and put together kits.
Wow. Okay, so how many kits did you make? Do you recall?
Well, we made 30 kits and I thought oh, well, if we get 30 people, I'll be so excited. We're never going to get 30 people but that'll be great. And we put it out what day to pick up your kits. And the day to start was on a Monday and by Sunday, every kit was gone. We've done 30 kits; they were all gone.
So I was like oh my goodness, we need to make more kits. What are we going to do? So, Kris, who leads our Monday Maven group, she had some more fabric, and we had some leftover webbing, so she started making kits. And I went through my my stash and started pulling out fabric to make kits and I ordered a bolt of the interfacing, and I ordered another 50 yards of webbing and Shani, she made 20 kits and I made another maybe 30 kits, something like that. And most of them were picked up. And the ones that weren't, I harassed people. I said, oh, don't you want another one? We have another one. I only have this many kits left. And people took them. And then because we did a half yard and a half yard so people could decide what was the outside and what was the inside. Here's extra fabric and people went to their stash and added to that and made more purses. So, one kit, sometimes made more than one purse.
Well, that is so cool. And now did you conduct a class for how to make the purse?
Yeah, that's what happens when you volunteer. You say we should do this. And they say, well, you teach the class. So, they had me teach a class on Zoom. And being a former teacher, I'm like, oh my goodness, I'm not just doing this. So, I practiced once with my with my original friend Laura. And then I made other people sign up to practice on Zoom with me on three other occasions so that I could go through my directions and make sure everything was as clear as I could make it. And another guild member Melissa, who's very techie came over to show me how to set the phone up as a camera. And then the iPad is the speaker so that everyone could see what we could do that. I don't know we had more than 20 people signed up for the class.
Oh, wow. Well, that's fantastic. Okay, so I was sort of doing the math. It sounds like you distributed 80 kits there to begin with and then people were adding to what you had done. So, I guess this is the spoiler alert and they held up their box, you could see it written on the outside. It said 126 purses.
So that's a lot so obviously some people made more than one, correct?
Some people made more than one; some people went into their own stash. A friend who's not a member of the Guild, but is another retired teacher made a bunch of them. And I was surprised after the fact that Laura, my original friend and I who I've talked to one of the aides at her school made 18 purses. She says I have lots of fabric I and she turned it another 18. At one point we were at 99 which was like oh my goodness, we're one short of 100 and we have to do 100 but we got over 100.
Yes. You sure did. And did you fit all those in one box?
I put it in one great big box. Not in...
Not in flat rate boxes.
Sure. Yeah, yeah, that would be a lot in one flat rate box. But yeah, I remember Jason talking about how heavy that box was. That was very cool. So I have to say 126 purses changes the lives of 126 girls in Zambia. And they get to go to school; they get to provide for their families who then have an opportunity for education and jobs. I mean, the trickle effect of 126 purses is just outstanding in one community. I mean, you could totally transform one, one whole community with that. So, thank you.
Could I do a shout out?
It's just. So, in addition to everybody who sewed, I also talked to other people about it. So I go to a Wednesday sewing group and some of the ladies there made purses also. Some people said I don't sew; can I give you a donation? And so, I had a few $20 bills handed to me, and that helped to pay for postage. And one group wrote a whole bunch of extra cards. So, we had cards in all the purses, but we also sent an extra 40 cards.
Oh, that is great.
And then the other shout out is to my daughter and her husband, who do a monthly donation, charity donation. And she said, oh, we'll take care of the $5 to cover the donation that's asked for but not necessary for all the purses. And she said, we're just going to do 100 purses and I said, oh, we'll never get 100 purses, but that's so generous of you. And she did the original donation for 100 purses and send it in online and told Sew Powerful that it was to cover the Santa Clarita Valley Guild purses, and that is was a donation. And when we went over 100 purses a couple months later, she sent in for the extra purses.
Oh, that is so nice. What is your daughter's name, if you don't mind?
Well, Rachel and Michael Zonshine. Yeah.
Oh, very nice. Okay. All right. That's fantastic. And, you know, the $5 covers the cost of materials and labor in Zambia, so that the purses can be filled. So that's so fantastic that your family was so involved in the entire process. There are you know, there's a lot of pieces to this puzzle and it's just amazing to see how you picked up that gauntlet and led the charge to make this happen. So, we're just really, really appreciative of that. Now, the people in your guild, do you think any of those as individuals will continue making purses on their own?
I don't know if they'll do it on their own. But I am on the schedule for next year for July, to be a speaker, to speak about Sew Powerful, and then to conduct the class again. So, we'll be making another 100 kits. People are already saying, oh, we got this donation, this fabric would be good for this. And I'm already looking for the supplies that we need to buy to see what I can do that won't cost too much money, and I should have 100 kids for next year. And so we're hoping to have at least 100 purses next year too.
That is amazing. Doryce, this whole story is so inspirational. We really appreciate it. And I want you to know, when you're getting ready to put your training together, contact me because we have lots of little, short video clips. We have one though that's seven minutes and it's of the girls receiving their purses. I don't know if you've seen it, but if there's a way to incorporate that in, there's not one person who's ever watched it that didn't need a tissue by the by the end. It's so emotional, but it's so inspirational. It really explains why we do what we do and how much they appreciate the efforts of our volunteer purse makers. So that is fantastic. So next July, you're going to do it again. So sometime in early fall of 2022, which sounds like a long ways away, but it'll be here before we know it.
Well, thank you. It was it was a pleasure and, and it was a great project for us. And I hope to do it yearly.
There should be looking for another big box from the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild. Doryce, thank you so very much for your time. It was a pleasure to talk to you and hear the story of how this big box of purses came to be and what the little history was there and how you brought that all together. And I just want you to know that for you personally and for your friends and your daughter and all the members of the Santa Clarita Valley Quilt Guild, we're so appreciative of everything you've done for Sew Powerful.
Well, and if you are a listener and a member of a quilt guild be inspired by what Doryce did and bring the information forward to the Board of your guild, and maybe we'll see if you send in a box over 100 purses next year too. So anyway, okay, well, thank you so much. Have a very nice day.
Thank you very much.
All righty. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization, is where you can download the free purse patterns, or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at email@example.com.