OAKLEY -- Creating something using fabric, thread and a sewing machine is just part of what Fashion Design students at Freedom High learn in class. They also take part in a deeper lesson, as one of their projects helps to bind together hope for little girls affected by disaster.

Fashion Design instructor Dave Behling said it's been three years since he incorporated the "Little Dresses for Africa" into the curriculum for his Fashion I class at the Oakley campus.

"It's a service learning project," Behling said. "It's the accomplishment of making something for someone else that they don't know."

And while they are creating the dresses to donate, they are also learning how to sew a French seam, create an elastic casing using bias tape and to finish off the dress with a hemline.

Students also acquire cost-saving tricks in class as well. Behling said, "We always make bias tape in class -- it's too expensive otherwise."

While LDFA originated as a Christian outreach ministry to provide relief to children left to fend for themselves from the AIDS pandemic in Central Africa, it now extends to other countries devastated by disaster. LDFA's motto is, "We're not just sending dresses, we're sending hope!"

"The dresses go into areas of need, not always Africa," Behling said. "I know a number of the dresses went into the Louisiana area after (Hurricane) Katrina. They have also sent them to Haiti, though Africa is their main thrust."

To get acquainted with the why and the whom, Fashion I students spend one class period watching a video that shows the typical child that will receive the dress and the type of conditions that these kids live in.

This time around, Behling said his classes are working to provide dresses for a drive that the Freedom ALOHA Club (Americans Learning our Heritage of Asians) is hosting in an effort to provide some relief to the Philippines after it was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in early November.

Because Fashion I and Fashion II can no longer charge lab fees for material and supplies, those items are now funded in part by school site money, which is already stretched thin. For the most part, those classes rely heavily on donations from outside parties.

But even those types of donations are at a low.

"This year, I just kind of scoured the cabinets to come up with the fabric for this year," Behling said.

"Realistically, we're looking at $500 if I was to walk into JoAnn's (Fabrics) or Hobby Lobby today and have to buy it at rack price," said Behling in regard to the material and notions needed for his 50 students to each make one small dress.

But Behling isn't someone who buys at full price.

"I'm one of those people who know that thread is going to be buy one, get one free, so I wait," he said.

"I shop the sales, I shop the coupons," he said.

For example, Behling said for his Fashion II class, "I got $1,000 worth of fabric for $300; that's the kind of shopping I do."

For those interested in donating, Behling said gift cards and cash donations are greatly appreciated and help him to obtain the best deals at the right times in order to stretch the funds.

The program could also use donations of postage, fabric and notions. Postage is approximately $25 per box, and each box holds about 25 "Little Dresses for Africa." As for fabric, his students use 100-percent quilter's cotton for their projects, and all notions are appreciated.

TO LEARN MORE
For more information about the Fashion Design program or how to donate, Dave Behling can be reached at behlingd@luhsd.net.