99-Year-Old Is 'Sewing A Better World' By Making A New Dress Everyday For A Child In Need

In our FEEL GOOD FRIDAY column this week, we bring to you a profoundly inspiring story of a lady named Lillian Weber, who has made more than 840 dresses for a nonprofit that distributes dresses to young girls in Africa and beyond.

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This is Lillian Weber. Somewhat frail, she uses a stick to walk and her hearing and eyesight are poor. She rarely ventures away from the farm where she lives, which at the age of 99, is not surprising.

Lillian Weber getting her celebratory birthday photo clicked by Jim Schaefer

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But Lillian is on a mission. Every single day, she sits down at her sewing machine – a primitive affair that she's had for decades – and makes a dress to send to a child in Africa.

Lillian Weber makes a dress from scratch every single day so that a child in need will have something beautiful to wear.

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The mother of five, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of 20 starts in the morning, takes a break for lunch and finishes in the afternoon, taking care to add individual little flourishes, including lace, buttons and appliqué, to each one.

Throughout the last few years, Weber has made more than 840 dresses for Little Dresses for Africa, a Christian nonprofit that distributes dresses to impoverished young girls in Africa and beyond. Weber says she hopes to hit the 1,000 dress mark before too long.

In the past two years, she's made around 850, and her impressive ambition is to celebrate her 100th birthday on 6 May next year by reaching the 1,000 mark the same day

She plans to make 1000 dresses by May 6th of next year. You see, by next May, Lillian will turn 100 years old and it will be her one thousandth dress. “It’s just one of those things you learn how to do and enjoy,” she says.

Not that she has any intention of stopping then. "If I'm still able to make them, I won't quit," she says. "I enjoy it and I need to be busy."

When Lillian, who lives in Iowa, is finished with her dresses, her daughters deliver them to a Davenport senior living apartment complex where a group of residents have a weekly sewing appointment to make dresses for the charitable organization

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Even though she's speedy, Weber still finds the time and takes the effort to make each dress extra special. “She personalizes them all,” Weber's daughter, Linda, told WQAD-TV of her mom's creations (pictured above). “It’s not like good enough that she makes the dresses, she has to put something on the front to make it look special, to give it her touch.”

Weber, who was nominated for WQAD-TV's "Pay It Forward" award, has been sewing the garments for Little Dresses for Africa since 2011, when she and a group of women -- most of whom are over the age of 80 -- decided to come together to support the organization.

The Christian charity Little Dresses for Africa has distributed 2.5 million of the handmade dresses in 47 African countries so far

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It is one of an increasing number of organisations over here, as well as abroad, which work to turn grannies' passions for crafts, including sewing, knitting and crocheting, into practical ways of helping those in need.

''Our father passed away eight years ago, just before their 70th wedding anniversary, and she likes to keep herself busy, so this has been perfect. She's always saying that she could make more than one dress a day, but we try to tell her not to tire herself out too much."

Lillian, who was taught by her mother to sew at the age of eight and was a stay-at-home mother before her retirement, saw an opportunity to put her talents to good use. Her daughter Linda Purcell, 64, says: "When she saw the advert, she told my sister: 'I could do that.' She's always been very good at sewing; when we were young, she made all our school uniforms for us.

For Lillian, all her hard work will pay off this autumn, when the founder of Little Dresses for Africa, Rachel O'Neill, will personally take some of Lillian's dresses to Africa and return with photographs of young girls wearing her creations

Rachel says she’s traveling to Africa again in September 2014 and February 2015 and hopes to be able to present to a child one of the dresses personally made by Lillian.

Linda, who lives next door to her mother on the farm the close-knit family have owned for 62 years, adds: "She's an absolutely awesome woman, very kind and generous. She loves doing the dresses and adding her own little touches on the front to personalise them, even though she doesn't have to. She loves to think she's helping people. I'm amazed by her every day, and the whole family are so proud of her."

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