Meet Linda Ronk. Linda has a most intriguing background including becoming an Air Force nurse at a more mature age than most enlistees. Linda, now retired, serves Sew Powerful as a Chapter Leader in Belton, Texas. She has set an ambitious goal for herself and has far exceeded it already. Listen as we learn why and how Linda, and her husband, support Sew Powerful so enthusiastically.
Get to Know Linda Ronk
IN THIS EPISODE
sewing, purses, industrial sewing machine, leather handbags, air force, nurse anesthetist, seat belt webbing, purse straps, crochet, chapter, Michigan, Texas, VA hospital
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.
Indiana Wesleyan University: https://www.indwes.edu/
Unites States Air Force: https://www.airforce.com/
US Department of Veterans Affairs: https://www.va.gov/
Seatbelt webbing on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3GrBShU
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: Linda Ronk
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.
Welcome Sew Powerful listeners. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with a Sew Powerful purse maker extraordinare. And she wears a couple of hats for Sew Powerful, and you're going to be surprised to learn all that she's accomplished in less than a year of her involvement with Sew Powerful. It's just been a pleasure to get to know her. And I know that you'll love getting to meet Linda Ronk. And so we're going to say hello to Linda and learn all about her. How are you today, Linda?
Linda Ronk, guest 00:49
Doing great. Thank you, Jan.
Oh, I'm so glad to talk with you. Let's start out, where do you live?
I live in Belton, Texas, which is about an hour north of Austin, Texas.
Right in the middle,
Right in the middle. And I live in Houston. We're having sort of a sunny, chilly day here. So
Probably about the same there, right?
Yes. Yes, it is. It's beautiful.
Right. And this is our winter. So you know, it's so exciting to get to wear a little sweatshirt or sweater during our winter months here. Where did you grow up? Are you a native Texan?
No, I've got here by a relatively circuitous route. I was born and raised in Michigan, got married at the age of 20. And we moved all over the country back and forth. And eventually I went back to school and got my nursing degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. And then a year later, at the age of 40, I joined the Air Force. And my assignment was in San Antonio. So I was in San Antonio for six years. And then we moved from there to Florida. And while we were here, my son fell in love with a girl from San Antonio and married her. And so when they started having babies, we decided to move back to Texas.
Wow. Now, I have to say I think it's somewhat unusual to join the Air Force at a mature age. What was your motivation for doing that?
It is very unusual. Well, basically, because my husband had not had a job where he would have any kind of retirement. And at that time, we thought if I could stay 20 years in the Air Force, we'd have a retirement. It didn't quite work out that way. But it still worked out just as God had planned. And I've been retired now. I worked at the VA for nine years and retired with a military/government pension. And we're doing just great here in Texas again.
That is so interesting. And I love that story. So can you tell us a little bit about your childhood growing up? Did you have siblings?
Yes, I'm the second oldest of seven. And my dad is a pastor. He and my mom got saved shortly after I was born. And he immediately went to Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And he was pretty green. He didn't know much about the scriptures. But he knew the Lord was calling him to leave the dairy farm and to preach and he's still preaching at the age of 95.
Oh my goodness, where does he live?
He's in Wyoming now. In Torrington, Wyoming.
So this very interesting background, has this led to interesting hobbies?
Yes, I've done a little bit of everything. I've done cross stitch, I've done macrome, I've done sewing, I've done crochet. Yesterday, I pulled out a sweater that I made when my daughter was less than a year old. So it's close to 40 years old. And I crocheted it when she was a baby and I wore it yesterday. So a little bit of everything and sewing sprinkled out throughout the years depending on the situation.
Well, that's cool. My mom crocheted a baby sweater for me. And so I still have that obviously, I don't wear it, but I do have it preserved and it just feels like such a special keepsake item. So you hinted a little bit at your career. You went to nursing school, is that right?
Yes. I got my bachelor's degree in nursing in '89 and joined the Air Force in '90. And then the Airforce put me through anesthesia school. So I'm retired as a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Oh my goodnes.
And so that was what I did the last, what, 18 years, something like that before I retired.
And part of that time you were working at a VA hospital?
Yes, yes, I worked in the Air Force for for several years and then in the private sector in Florida. And then for the last nine yours as chief CRNA at the VA in Temple, Texas.
Okay. Wow. And and so Temple is near where you live, right?
Their sister cities? Yes.
Yeah. uh-huh. And I've been to both. They have beautiful, slightly rolling hills.
Lots of green pastures and beautiful acreage in that part of Texas. It's just really a lovely part. So how and when did you learn to sew?
Well, I took home-ec in high school. And sewed some of my clothes when I was at home, and then sewed for my kids when they were little. And so we've done some upholstery at one point in time. So over the years, it's just kind of been hit and miss sewing, you know, when it has worked out to sew, but since I've retired, I got into making purses. And so I got an industrial machine and made leather purses and handbags. And I'd just fallen in love with making purses and bags. But I'm not a very good businesswoman. So I've given away a lot; sold some. But that's not my main goal. It's just been enjoying making them. So when I got acquainted with Sew Powerful this summer through Facebook, I thought this is for me.
Well, and I have to ask, do you use your industrial machine on the Sew Powerful purses?
I have not? No, I have two very good domestic machines that I use.
No, I haven't had to use my, my big machine.
Well, that is so interesting. And so one of your hobbies then is to make handbags, leather handbags?
Yes. Wow. That's very cool. So you said that you heard about Sew Powerful on Facebook? Do you remember how that came about a little more specifically?
I honestly don't. I'm part of several purse sewing groups. And somebody on there mentioned it and it intrigued me. And the more I learned about Sew Powerful, the organization, the more hooked I got, because I love the mission. I love the philosophy and being able to sew to my heart's content and not have to worry about selling or marketing or any of those things. So it's really, really fit the bill at this point.
Oh, that's fantastic. So what is your normal source of fabric for making purses for Sew Powerful?
Well, I like to use the quilt shop quality fabrics. But I'm also pretty cheap. So I very rarely spend full price. I hit sales. But I love the bright colors that are available and the quality of the quilt shop. I also love to repurpose, so I'll make trips to Goodwill or the Goodwill Outlet is sometimes even better, or other resale shops to glean what I can and use that.
And what do you use for straps? Do you use webbing? Or do you use fabric or combination? What do you do?
I've been using webbing and I really like the seat belt webbing. It's soft, it's pretty. It is more expensive than the polypropylene. But I just love the look it gives them. It's shiny and bright. And so at this point, if I can't find the right color, I'm using the seatbelt webbing for straps.
And is it narrow? Is it one inch wide?
It's one inch. Uh huh. Yeah.
Where do you find something like that?
On Amazon is the the best place to get it. I've looked all over. But I can make a strap for less than $1.
So I'll continue to use it as long as you know, it doesn't get too prohibitively expensive.
Well, wow. What a great tip. So just search on Amazon for seat belt webbing.
Yeah, yes. And they can't get quite as many colors. But mostly, I've found what I need.
Mmm, Well, well that's cool. I don't know anybody that's doing that and do you make the intermediate bag or the beginner purse? Which one do you like?
I've been making the the beginner purse. I've got some shortcuts and some other ways I do things and I do interface both the lining and the outer when I'm using just cotton so if I'm using like a twill or a denim or something else then I don't but it just gives more stability to the purse and makes it I think a little longer lasting. And I have a heat press and I apply the interfacing with a heat press so it really melds it together. Just really adds a nice dimension to the bag.
What a great idea. So if you have a heat press, then you're using like SF101
Yeah. I've mostly been getting it through Home Sew which is just a bit heavier than even the SF101.
Oh, okay. All right.
But again, SF101. unless you get it on sale, it gets way too expensive. So,
Yeah, I think all of us only buyit on sale. Right, right. And so what do you like to do with that flap on the beginner purse?
Well, mostly, I just let the fabric speak for themselves. But I have done several where when I've been repurposing, like, if I find a cute dress that has a cute pocket on it, I'll use that for the flap.
I've also cut it at a diagonal, and put just a little bit of like piping in. And just to give it just a little bit of zip. But mostly I just let the beautiful fabrics speak for themselves.
Well, and when you're using all those bright colors, that's enough in many cases. Now, I understand that you set a goal for yourself for 2022. And you want to talk to us about that? And whether or not you made your goal for January, let's just put it that way.
Well, my goal is like 30 a month, basically one a day. And I think it was early last week, I sent off my second box, and I had been able to get 32 in each box. So I've outdone myself for January. So if something comes up later in the year, and I can't make my goal, I've got that as a little bit of a cushion.
So as we record this right near the end of the month, you've made 64 purses in the month of January. Is that right?
I've spent off 64? Yes. And I've got kits ready to go for probably 40 more, so I'll have a good start on February.
Well, I should say so. And you said you put them in the big box. Is this the USPS gameboard box?
I guess you saw the post where the office is discontinuing that.
I think maybe all of us purse makers have given the post office second thoughts about that box that maybe we're overdoing it, they had to discontinue it. Yeah. So if you like to use that box listeners, you probably need to go to the post office and see what they still have and use it while we still can. Besides making purses, you have also volunteered to be a Chapter Leader in our new Chapter format. Tell us the name of your chapter and tell us a little bit about your chapter activities.
The name of the Chapter is Powerful Purse Partners of Central Texas. And we have actually gotten off to a pretty slow start mostly because of COVID and other illnesses. We were supposed to have our second official meeting in January and we had to cancel that. So I'm just in the process now of reaching out to everyone again, and seeing how they want to go forward. One other person and I get together regularly to sew every couple of weeks, and we'll spend the day cutting things out or interfacing or sewing. So right now it's a slow process getting started. But I just keep at it and keep sewing and we'll see what happens.
Well, and let's give a shout out to your friend. It's your friend Juanita, is that right?
Yeah, Arnold? Uh huh.
Well, when Juanita Arnold, thank you so much for your help and your contributions. We appreciate that very much. You mentioned earlier that the Sew Powerful ministry really appeals to you. Can you be a little more specific about what it is you like?
Several things. I like the fact that the overhead is low, that the emphasis is not on giving things to other people, but to supporting them in ways that they can support themselves. In other words, coming alongside them, and really giving them a hand up as opposed to a handout. And that, to me is the way it should be in especially for believers. We are so fortunate to have what we have and to not reach out and help in that way is not the way it should be. So the more I researched the organization, the the more I felt like this is something I can really get behind. And my husband was the same way. He is pretty picky about who he wants to support. And yet he's all behind this. I've even tried to talk him into having a sewing day with me but he drew the line there but he does the housework while I sew.
Sounds like an excellent arrangement. Linda, what would you say to somebody who's thinking about volunteering for Sew Powerful, you know, maybe they're thinking about starting to make purses, or maybe they're making purses and thinking maybe there's a little more they could do, what would you tell them?
I would encourage them to do whatever they can. And, you know, I'm fortunate that I'm retired. I can afford to just go to my sewing room and make that many purses a month; a lot of people can't. But one purse or two purses is just as meaningful as doing, you know, a lot. And I would encourage them to just research the organization and find out the heart of the people that are involved in it. And I would be hard pressed to find somebody who would not be able to get behind the organization in some way, shape, or form. And I'm here for anybody, whether they're Central Texas or not, I'm happy to help in any way I can. I'm happy to help. And I would encourage others to make cards. Making cards is not my forte, but it's still a meaningful part of the process.
Right. Well, and we do have some groups that just sit down and knock out you know, a couple 100 cards and send them in and we're very grateful for that. But that heartfelt card even though it's not easy to write, I know the girl who gets it is so appreciate
having it. Linda, I want to thank you so much for your time and it was so much fun to get to know you. I see box after box at the Sew Powerful Live event. They hold it up, Linda Ronk dat dat dat dat dat dat dat. Linda Ronkrock dat dat dat dat dat dat dat.
Well, not quite. But
Well, I mean, this time sounds like there'll be at least two boxes there.
Yeah. Yeah, too. So that's so much fun. Well, thank you. And it's a pleasure to get to talk to another Texas purse maker. And if you live in the Central Texas area, you know, a little bit north of Austin, you'll know where Linda lives and you're looking for people to join your chapter, is that right?.
Yes, we sure are. Yes. We'd love to have people join us.
Yeah. So if you're interested, you can go to the chapters page on the Sew Powerful website and look on the map and you'll find Linda's chapter in Belton, Texas there. And there's a way for you to just automatically send a message to her that you're interested in. She'll get back to you. So anyway, well, thank you so much. Again, it was a pleasure and we will talk with you soon. 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 SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's 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 and as the Region 8 Chapter Manger. 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