Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Area 'Bag Ladies' carry on tradition

Volunteers send handmade totes around the world

By Leslie Gartrell
Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Using donated fabric, Emily Daugherty sews a handle that will be part of a tote bag.

FORT RECOVERY - Esther Jetter started her Bag Lady Ministry about seven years ago to sew bags for people overseas.
Now 103, Jetter and volunteers like Emily Daugherty have helped make thousands of the totes that have been sent to communities around the globe.
Jetter said she first started sewing when she was 12 and has been interested in mission work for years. The ministry is based at Fort Recovery Nazarene Church, where she is a member. She started the ministry when she learned many people in underdeveloped countries lack ways to carry things.
"Some countries don't have ways to carry stuff," she said. "There is so much extra material in this country to use. You'd be surprised at how much material people have sitting around on shelves."
As she made the bags bit by bit, Jetter said Daugherty and some of her other friends noticed and offered to help.
The bags are made with donated materials, and no money is spent to make them, Jetter said. Daugherty, 62, said she tries to use cotton fabrics so the bags can easily be washed.
Daugherty said she picked up a truckload of fabric that was donated after someone died last week. Jetter said a ministry volunteer keeps an eye out for local garage sales to obtain unwanted fabric and clothes.
"Sometimes people give old curtains, old sheets. Even yard-sized pieces (of fabric) can make a couple bags," Daugherty said. "No two bags are ever the same. They're so easy to make, I like to say that if you can sew a straight line, you can make a bag."
Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Emily Daugherty sews together fabric at the Fort Recovery Nazarene Family Center to make one of 1,000 bags that will be sent to Malawi in Southeast Africa.

Daugherty and Jetter said over the years their bags have been sent to Honduras, Haiti, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Peru and other destinations.
Jetter has paired with other groups to send the bags overseas, including the Christian Literature For Africa Association of Fort Wayne, Indiana, a group that donates Bibles and books to more than 40 countries across Africa.
She said she called CLA to ask if they would like bags for recipients to carry their Bibles in. The group quickly agreed. Jetter said the CLA also uses the bags as packing material to send along with the Bibles.
Daugherty said the local Bag Lady Ministry also sewed 150 backpacks made mostly of denim for students at a new school in Haiti.
One of Jetter's sons, who is a missionary, asked for 100 bags to send to sex trafficking survivors in Peru.
Jetter said 110 bags recently were sent to Kenya, while Daugherty said 100 bags were sent to Utah that will ultimately end up in South America.
Around Thanksgiving, Daugherty said the ministry got its biggest request yet when the CLA asked for 1,000 bags to be shipped to Malawi in Africa.
"We take for granted how fortunate we are in the United States to have these simple things," Jetter said.
Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Finished bags wait to be shipped at the Fort Recovery Nazarene Family Center.

The bags also are sent overseas through friends and family, Jetter said.   
Eunice LaBorde, a native of Haiti now living in Florida, lived with Jetter's family as an exchange student while she attended college. LaBorde now helps coordinate shipping the bags to Haitian communities.
"The bag project has been so instrumental in the lives of so many Haitian people," LaBorde said.
Daugherty said Jetter has launched several service projects throughout the years.
Previously, Daugherty said Jetter had a suitcase ministry where she would collect suitcases and fill them with supplies for foreign missionaries coming to the U.S. When the missionaries returned home, they would have a suitcase full of supplies, she said.
Jetter said the ministry has faced challenges in recent years. Inflation and supply chain snarls have made transporting the bags both costly and time-consuming, she said.
"It's a challenge," she said. "I don't know how much longer we can do it because of the shipping challenges. I wish we could do more."
Still, Daugherty said she and her fellow volunteers continue to put in the work. She said the group has about 300 bags yet to make for the CLA shipment to Malawi, which will need to be completed by July 1.
Bag Lady Ministry accepts cotton fabric, thread and ribbon donations, Daugherty said. To donate or volunteer, contact Daugherty via text at 260-251-3408.
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