American Sewing Guild comes together in Murrysville for holiday stockings

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

For members of the American Sewing Guild, Christmas came early.

Aug. 15 was the fifth annual Stocking Day at Murrysville Alliance Church, an event in which members of the guild and the community come together and sew holiday stockings that are sent to military personnel overseas.

“We made 3,200 stockings last year,” Maire Machens, a member of the sewing guild and one of the event's coordinators, said during the event. “This year, we have over 4,000 kits cut out; we hope to make over 4,000 stockings.”

There was a job for everyone at the event. There were tracing parties — where the outline of the stockings are traced — and then cutting parties, where the stockings are cut from the material and matched up with trim. Volunteers also ironed, cooked and served meals, and collected finished stockings.

“The first year, it was held at a sewing machine shop in Murrysville that's not there anymore. There were only 10 of us. We only made about 100,” Machens said.

Now, the event has more than 80 volunteers, and the attendance has grown each year, with volunteers showing up at 9 a.m. until the doors close at 9 p.m.

“The stockings are a morale booster,” said Rusty Frankoski, one of the coordinators of the event. “The stockings are showing that (those in the military are) in our thoughts.”

Some members of the guild are local, and a few come from miles away.

Renee Hollis, who has been a member of the sewing guild for about 20 years, travels to the Murrysville Alliance Church every year from New Mexico for this event.

“Our men are giving up a lot for our country, and for us, just being able to sit here and sew is a freedom that most countries and women don't have,” Hollis said about the importance of the event.

For the past three events, the American Sewing Guild has joined forces with Alliance Veterans because a lot of veterans attend the Murrysville Alliance Church.

Tony Martin, the coordinator for Alliance Veterans and also a church member, helped the sewing guild by giving it the use of the church space once a year for the stocking event.

“I am a vet, myself. Served for six years in the military,” Martin said. “It's an encouragement to them, and it boosts morale, and we are showing our support and letting them know we're behind them.”

When the stockings are finished, they are packed up and sent to Military Connections in Penn Hills, a nonprofit organization that focuses on sending morale-boosting care packages to troops overseas.

Many of the volunteers who are not veterans themselves know veterans, and the event is very important to them.

“I don't think there's anyone more important than those soldiers who are giving us our freedom and security,” said Lorie Mottorn, a cook for Meals on Wheels, who also cooks for the stocking event. This was her second year.

“It's not a work of art,” Frankoski said, “but a work of love.”

Jacqueline Dell is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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