Dozens of Thurston County children have warm pajamas, hoodies or school clothes because of Elaine Hart.
Hart says she sews as a mission from God.
The 74-year-old with a slight build and cropped white hair retired as a master sergeant after 27 years of military service. She also worked for the state of Washington for 30 years. She went from a career of managing air cargo to sewing fleece hoodies with a puppy dog print and hair scrunchies from fabric scraps.
“One night I had a dream,” Hart recalls. “Jesus came and said ‘Walk with me.’ ”
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She was called to drive to nearby Capitol State Forest, where she found children sleeping in cars or tents.
“It was so cold,” she said.
“Jesus said, ‘I want you to sew for my children.’ I said, ‘I don’t sew!’ And he said, ‘No, Elaine, sew for my children.’ ”
“So, I said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ ”
And with that, Hart began a journey of sewing and giving.
Hart settled on City Gates Ministries in Olympia to distribute her clothes, after splitting her efforts for a while with the Wounded Warrior program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Hart’s clothes help homeless children as well as families struggling to meet other needs, said Phil Prietto, director and pastor of City Gates.
“She is very consistent and very passionate in what she does,” Prietto said.
City Gates was fundraising at Haggen supermarket during the cold weather before the holidays and handing out warm clothes to families.
“The garments that were warmer were just about gone by the end of the week,” Prietto said. “We told Elaine, and by the end of the week, she’d replenished everything.”
The garments that were warmer were just about gone by the end of the week. We told Elaine, and by the end of the week, she’d replenished everything.”
Phil Prietto, director and pastor of City Gates Ministries
Hart can’t really define how much time she spends sewing — she says she’s sewing pretty much whenever she’s home. She does the hand work while watching TV in the living room, and during commercials, goes to her sewing room for machine work.
“Walking from one to the other is my exercise,’ she said.
She lays out patterns 3 or 4 deep and then her husband, Gary, cuts them out. “He has stronger hands,” she said.
She and Gary married in 2003. They had been friends since age 7, and later, pen pals. Each had their own families, until reuniting later in life. Gary Hart describes them as best friends.
The couple also sends boxes of cookies and baked goods to troops in Afghanistan every month.
“I’m known as Grandma Cookies,” Elaine Hart said.
In addition, she and her husband make teddy bears to give to the fire department. Firefighters give them to children during aide and fire calls.
But her main passion is clothes for children.
Last week, her sewing closet contained 20 pairs of pants, mostly flannel; a nightgown; several baby sleepers; T-shirt dresses in several sizes (she gets the T-shirts for $1 and adds a strip of fabric for a skirt), and lots of fleece hoodies.
“Growing up here, I never would have thought there would be children sleeping in the street,” she said. “I feel like I need to take care of the children right here in my own backyard.”
To donate fabric or support to Elaine Hart: Call 360-352-6328.
Rosie’s Place: City Gates Ministries is not the only group that needs clothes. Community Youth Services accepts new and gently used clothing, outdoor gear, shoes and boots for young people and maintains a clothing closet at Rosie’s Place for those ages 12 to 24. Donors are asked to call first to determine the current need at 360-943-0780, Ext. 206.