Thanks to 16-year-old Lexi Fresh, young girls in Haiti, Kenya and Senegal are owners of beautiful T-shirt dresses, sewn personally by Lexi and women in Plymouth. In addition, the recipients of the dresses received an invitation to join Girl Guides, the international equivalent of Girl Scouts in the United States.
A sophomore at Wayzata High School, Fresh developed the project she titled “Dress for a Change,” to earn her Gold Award. The highest award within the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. requires a project to involve at least 80 service hours and a sustainability aspect. She will receive her Gold Award at a ceremony in June.
Lexi was moved when she saw the state of several countries around the world that had been affected by natural disasters, famine, abuse and AIDS. Knowing how Girl Scouts had a positive impact on her own life, Lexi looked for a means to give young girls hope despite the negative circumstances surrounding them.
“My hope and dream for little girls in orphanages is to empower them and give them the same opportunity I had to join Girl Guides and earn the same type of badges as me,” Lexi says.
Lexi prepared for her extensive undertaking by selling 4,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. With the proceeds, she was able to purchase 1,072 girls ruffle T-shirts to make her dresses. The ruffle-style shirt allows for fabric to be sewn to the bottom without the shirt losing any stretch or shape. The dresses were fashioned by adding colorful fabric skirts to each shirt. Finally, Lexi sewed vintage badges to each skirt and also created her own badge called “Dress for a Change” which was sewn onto the dresses.
Lexi's mother and troop leader, Audrey Fresh, donated much of the fabric to help make the dresses.
Lexi acknowledges the work couldn’t have been completed without the community donating their time and talent to her cause. She is grateful to Creative Sewing Center of Minnetonka and the Women of the West Quilters guild in Plymouth. “From June to August, we met together at Blue Bamboo Quilt Shop for open sew sessions. We all brought our sewing machines and made dresses for hours every Monday,” Lexi says.
It was a labor-intensive summer that culminated in early September last year when she sent off the 1,072 dresses to several missionary outlets.
Lexi sent 150 dresses to the Light of Hope School in Kenya and another 150 dresses went to the Heshima Kenya Refugee Program. In Haiti, 600 dresses were delivered to several orphanages in Port-au-Prince, and a village in northwest Senegal received 172 dresses.
What’s exciting for Lexi is that the project hasn’t ended; it seems as if it’s merely beginning. As a result of her efforts, Lexi has received several invitations to travel to Kenya and Haiti.
“The missionaries are asking Lexi for the T-shirts and fabric so the girls can sew the dresses themselves,” says Audrey Fresh. Creating and selling the dresses would mean a source of income for the young women at the Imara International orphanage in Kenya. They have donated five sewing machines to Light of Hope since her project is complete.
Lexi's project embodies what it means to be a Girl Scout. Her Gold Award statement says: “If just one of the 1,072 girls joins Girl Scouts, the world will indeed become a better place. She will not fall victim to her circumstances, she will rise above them and find the strength to better herself. She will learn skills to make a living, and become the girl she was born to be.”
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More than 30,000 girls participate in Girl Scouts River Valleys, serving 49 counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Register here.