At Center Pointe Church one Saturday morning each month, a group of women gathers to pray, cut, sew and embroider. It’s a sewing club, but their work has a higher purpose.
Their group is called Threads of Love, and they’re part of a nationwide, Louisiana-based organization of volunteers who craft tiny garments for the littlest of the little, premature babies who are too sick or too tiny to survive. From those for babies less than 14 weeks to 36 weeks and newborn, gowns and wraps are handmade to give these infants beautiful wear in which they otherwise might not be seen.
Marcia McCall leads this group of volunteers. “If we have 13, we have a population explosion,” she said. “Most times, it’s six to eight.”
The volunteers work in an assembly line style, with one cutting the soft, lightweight material, another sewing, another ironing, another adding appliques and decorative buttons. Threads of Love also works with the Sew Magnolias, a group of women in Vancleave who enjoy embroidery and who add machine embroidery to the garments. Each completed garment gets a small Threads of Love label before it is sealed into a bag with accessories such as tiny booties, a blanket or a cap, labeled according to size (Tiny 1 through Preemie 3) and sent to one of five hospitals on the Coast and the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and University Medical use the most garments,” McCall said. In May, for example, 293 pieces were sent to UMC.
“The littlest ones are too fragile to be dressed,” McCall said, barely above a whisper, as she picked up a delicate wisp of batiste embroidered with an adorable light blue elephant. The garment, with faux short sleeves, had a tiny drawstring neckline and a small, lightweight blanket to coordinate. “We call these angel wraps because you can’t put actual clothes on them. This just ties around their little necks. And then you fold the blanket over them like this,” she said, lightly overlapping the corners.
A completed packet for a larger baby included hand-knit booties and a cap. They were made by Pico Reinsvold, who discovered a chapter of Threads of Love when she lived in San Antonio.
“When I moved to Mississippi, I was with a cooking group that took blankets to hospitals, and then I found Threads of Love here,” she said. The smallest booties she crafts are about 1 inch.
Another volunteer, Ferna Williams, just moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Virginia Beach, Virginia, about a month ago. This particular Saturday was her first time at the Ocean Springs Threads of Love meeting, and she was starting with sewing. But she has another skill that meshes well with the organization’s purpose.
“I’m an affiliate photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” she said. Another nonprofit, that group provides volunteer photographers who take sensitive remembrance photographs of premature and stillborn babies for their families free of charge.
“I work only in black and white and sepia,” she said. She hopes to contact area hospitals about the service.
“The Lord led me to their website,” she said, referring to Threads of Love. “I saw a ministry that speaks to the broken hearted.”
Center Pointe Church already had a sewing ministry, McCall said, but Threads of Love provides an outlet that reaches beyond the church.
“This is a community group, not just for Center Pointe,” she said. “Anyone who can sew, knit, crochet, pack, embroider, iron — we welcome anybody and everybody to volunteer.”
Before parents can accept garments from Threads of Love, they must be willing to accept the accompanying “A Prayer for Baby and Family,” McCall said.
It begins, “Oh Lord God, thank you for this precious child who now rests gently in your loving arms. We know from your Word that you form each and every one and you do not forget us.”
Parents also receive a Recognition of Life certificate, which includes a space for the infant’s footprint.
“Other babies get a birth certificate, but there’s nothing like that for babies who don’t survive,” McCall said. “That’s why it’s called a Recognition of Life certificate.”
Threads of Love meets each third Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information or to volunteer, call Center Pointe Church at 228-875-7878.