May 14, 2020

Sew Much Love for Haiti

Feeding God’s Children event organized by Isabelle Measner of Somerset, Wisconsin, with support from Somerset 1011.

The humming of sewing machines enveloped the basement of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Somerset, Wisconsin, as a bright high school freshman buzzed about ensuring each volunteer had a role in the evening’s event. Volunteers donned red Feeding God’s Children shirts and quickly teamed up before finding a station to begin working.

Isabelle Measner, the event organizer, jumped at the opportunity to support students in Haiti, and her family wasn’t far behind. Isabelle’s aunt, Laura Schimmel, suggested the idea of making simple drawstring bags for children in Haiti. Laura works with Dr. Steve Harrold, a doctor who takes medical mission trips to Haiti and conducts checkups on children and staff at St. Antoine School in Haiti. “While he is there, he finds what they need and comes back here and gets the donations and sends the supplies there,” Isabelle said. “They walk up to three miles to school each day,” Isabelle explained, adding that approximately 50% of the population lives on less than $2 USD per day. She anticipates the positive effect the bags will have on the students: “In making the drawstring backpacks, we hope they feel loved, as they use them to carry school supplies on their way to school or other needs.”

Every last detail of this event was carefully planned and thought out, and not just because Isabelle is part of a school club called FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America). “I really like organizing things and getting together with a bunch of people, so I wanted to do event management,” Isabelle said of why she chose this specific project.

In February, Isabelle competed by presenting a portfolio containing an estimated 40 pages including everything from health and safety procedures to the floor plan and her budgeting for two different venues, maps, and number of parking spaces – all in preparation of this Feeding God’s Children event. Isabelle’s portfolio included research on volunteer management, including who her head volunteer would be. “She had to do sample letters to potential sponsors and people she was going to recruit to attend,” Sara Measner, Isabelle’s mom, said. “Everyone should do this!” (The Fraternal Outreach Team agrees, Sara! We know these facets of event planning well.) As of this writing, Isabelle was preparing to compete at the state competition in April. She had earned gold at the local level, and that was even before the Feeding God’s Children event — Sew Much Love for Haiti — took place!

Though the high school freshman likes to take the lead on projects and is more than qualified to do so, she also likes knowing she has the support of her family. “It’s fun because she knows what she’s doing,” Isabelle says of working with and learning from her mom. “We do a lot of projects,” Sara said. “My mom is here, my two sisters, and my sister Laura — her kids are here. One time we sewed hats [in this room] and made blankets for the homeless, so I feel like our family is always looking for another project and some way we can help out.”

As for what they think of working as a mother-daughter duo, both Isabelle and Sara smiled when they were asked. “We stayed up really late working on my project, so that was really fun,” Isabelle explained. Sara, who also serves as the youth ministry leader at St. Anne’s, added, “We had some good laughs!” The glow of energy and pride coming from Sara was palpable as she went on to explain, “Isabelle just has a really pure, beautiful heart so it’s neat to see her put her heart into whatever she’s doing, and with this project she did a lot of outreach, texting, emailing, asking people to come.”

As far as recruiting people for the event, Isabelle put a lot of effort into spreading the word. She knew the food would draw in middle school volunteers and service hours would entice high school students, but Sara saw volunteers coming for another reason. “People want to give back!” she exclaimed. “When they see opportunities and they want to be a part of it, they get really excited.”

Volunteers used sewing machines, handheld precision tools, and pins to make the drawstring bags.

When asked what Catholic Order of Foresters means to her, Sara, who’s been a member since she was young, said, “COF is good at giving back!” She also mentioned how the organization helped her become the person she is today. Each year, Somerset 1011 holds a Matching Funds event to benefit St. Anne’s youth ministry program. “It’s very beneficial for the things we’re doing here.” 

“The whole thing worked out in God’s hands,” Isabelle, who led the group in prayer over the bags at the end of the event, said. In total, 59 event volunteers made 144 bags and cut enough T-shirts to make 84 diapers. “Wow! That is just awesome, I think!” Sara added. You may be thinking, “Diapers? Did I miss something?” No, you didn’t. Sara and Isabelle saw an opportunity to help babies and toddlers in Haiti by creating diapers out of old T-shirts. (You may remember this story and event idea from the Winter 2018 or Summer 2019 editions of Catholic Forester.)

Sara concluded, “It was so very successful in so many ways — bringing people together to spread love and joy to the kids in Haiti, but also strengthening each other by our presence and fellowship.”

Article by Katlyn Pischel