Lower Burrell woman sews for charitable groups, reaps joy from helping others

November 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the first of an occasional series that will feature Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.

Hundreds of girls overseas and homeless people in the Pittsburgh area and surrounding communities are a little more comfortable thanks to Shirley Woodcock.

The Lower Burrell resident has sewn dresses, bags and quilts throughout the years for various charitable organizations in the Alle-Kiski Valley and has no plans to stop.

“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s kind of my therapy. It’s my craft. I think it’s a gift and a talent that God’s given me. I like to share it. People donate materials and the Lord provides.”

Two sewing machines sit in her dining room: one for heavy materials and the other more modern and computerized for difficult patterns.

Dresses and other items were stuffed in shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an annual program through the nondenominational evangelical Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse. They send the shoe boxes to families all over the globe. Dresses ranged from size 2-10 -- and most originated from pillow cases.

“I really do think the young girls appreciate something,” Woodcock said. “They don’t have much, which is why these shoe boxes go around the world.”

Woodcock, 81, made bags for the Center United Methodist Church in Fawn . The church is a member of the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches Interfaith Hospitality Network. That program provides housing and assistance to homeless people.

“They were carrying their things in garbage bags, and garbage bags break,” Woodcock said. “I designed this for them to put their clothes in and everything they own.”

The three-layer, queen-size quilts were made from jeans, shirts and other materials crafted by Woodcock and a sewing group at Holy Martyrs Catholic Church in Tarentum.

She also made bibs for a stroke patient at the Freeport Senior Citizens Center, worked for Sadecky’s Puppets in Tarentum for 10 years and had a puppet ministry at Center United Methodist Church.

Woodcock discovered a love of sewing as a teen growing up with her mother, Aldine Damon, in Fredonia, N.Y.

She said her mother had a machine but did not sew much.

“I was the youngest of nine children, my dad was a farmer. So I had an opportunity to make pajamas,” she said. “It was more to fulfill a need.”

Woodcock lived in the same town as her future husband, Ray Woodcock, also 81. The two will be married for 60 years on Valentine’s Day.

She made uniforms while working as a nurse in Buffalo, N.Y. and in Cleveland for a few years before the Woodcocks moved to Fawn. She also made dresses for her daughters when they were in school.

Woodcock encouraged people to get involved in their communities and use their talents to help others.

“Everybody has some kind of a talent whether it’s singing or if it’s just conversation,” she said. “Nursing homes need volunteers just to go play bingo. A lot of organizations need volunteers. We would welcome them at Holy Martyrs.

“People sometimes receive more than they give.”

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