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America Supports You: Group Sews Globally for Wounded Troops

By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2006 – The Information Age has helped give birth to a global sewing circle creating unique clothing to fit America's wounded troops as they heal.

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From left, Air Force Maj. Sandra Edens, Diane Sward and MeAe Wosika modify clothes for wounded troops at their weekly gathering in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 14. These ladies are members of "Sew Much Comfort," a group modifying clothes to fit wounded servicemembers as they recover. Courtesy photo

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With an executive director in Ohio, a president in Minnesota, and over 300 seamstresses scattered throughout the world, the members of "Sew Much Comfort" have learned to work together from a distance.

"Without the electronic age, this could not have happened," said Virginia "Ginger" Dosedel, the group's founder and executive director. "I could not find enough people to support this otherwise."

Dosedel started the group here in December 2004, managing a small group of women as they sewed pants, shirts and underwear to accommodate the braces and other devices the troops wore as they recuperated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

In June 2005, Dosedel joined her husband in his reassignment to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

But her group didn't miss a beat, she said. The effort continued to grow as members coordinated logistical operations and weekly sewing events through e-mails, phone calls and Web site postings with programs such as America Supports You, a Defense Department initiative facilitating grassroots and corporate support for the nation's servicemembers.

While sewing is at the heart of the effort, a lot has to happen to keep providing wounded troops with this custom-modified clothing not available from retail outlets or medical suppliers, Dosedel said.

From the beginning, Michelle Cuppy and DeDee Galligan, both living in Minneapolis, Minn., have taken care of many financial and communications issues.

Research and one-on-one interaction also play a big role, Dosedel said. The group has 12 "ambassadors" -- women who go into military hospitals to speak with the troops and hand out clothing. The relationships these women foster with servicemembers have turned into a vital part of the group's routine.

"It gives us a more personal touch," she said. "We can find out a little more about what they like, what they don't like ... whether there's anything that we need to change.... I do the inventory control from my house, and (the ambassadors) give me a really good feel for what the soldiers are using."

The ambassadors also help get pro sports team sponsorship.

"When they get to know soldiers, they can also tell me things like what NFL team they really like," Dosedel said. "That enables me to contact that NFL team, and we've had a lot of really good response from the professional sports teams -- baseball and football -- supplying us with clothing that we can then adapt and give to the soldiers."

Although e-mail and phone calls keep the network together, the actual sewing happens on a local level. She said that coordination is accomplished by regional directors, such as Air Force Maj. Sandra Edens, who volunteers as this area's Sew Much Comfort representative when not at work as a personnel officer at the Pentagon.

"I do a bit of everything," Edens said. She organizes area volunteers, coordinates local clothing drives, runs fundraisers, hosts sewing nights at her home, and regularly takes her place behind a sewing machine.

Edens said soon the group hopes to have designated regional directors and ambassadors throughout the U.S., as well as in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and at forward-deployed hospitals near the fighting.

Calling the effort a "labor of love," Edens acknowledged that sometimes keeping all the program's moving parts in order has been "somewhat of a challenge," but helping the servicemembers recover has been more than worth it.

"These guys are amazing, and it's such an experience to go and interact with them. ... Thank goodness for e-mail," she said.

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Related Sites:
Sew Much Comfort
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Maj. Sandra Edens holds up modified fleece pants at a recent sewing event in Alexandria, Va., near Washington. Edens is the area's regional director for "Sew Much Comfort," a group modifying clothes to fit wounded troops as they recover. Courtesy photo  
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