DEMOTTE — Angels Wrapped in Love, an non-profit organization that makes burial gowns for preemies and full term infants that did not make it home, celebrated its fifth anniversary Saturday with an open house at the American Reformed Church in DeMotte. Started by Darlene DeVries, who once wrote a weekly column for the Kankakee Valley Post News, after she heard about an organization doing the same in Texas.

What started as hobby with one hospital on board, has become a large group of women and men who sew, crochet, sort buttons, remove beads and prepare bonnets and booties for the small children who didn’t get a chance to experience life.

DeVries said they now make the burial gowns for 53 hospitals and 20 funeral homes in the area and across the country. The volunteers include eight who sew, 15 who crochet, and a group that helps with all the associated work to get the gowns and the accouterments together.

Angels Wrapped in Love accepts wedding gowns, prom dresses and even men’s suits, which are used to make tiny vests for boys. They only use light colored material, no dark colors except what is used for the vests. They make several different sizes as well as tiny baby buntings for the tiniest infants who are 1 pound or less. These can be made from crocheting or flannel. Satin can be used to line the crocheted gowns or for decoration. Beads from dresses are used for decoration and some are used to make tiny bracelets.

Some of the volunteers who make the gowns can make four to five outfits a day. DeVries said they usually send a shipment of gowns every six months on average, but she is in contact with the hospitals asking if they need more. She said it they don’t need more, that’s a good thing. That means there haven’t been infant deaths. Rush University in Chicago has a standing order for a shipment of gowns every four months.

Sharon Bailey, who serves as the secretary for the group, said she just joined a year ago, and she didn’t know how to sew. She volunteered to cut the patterns, or do anything to help the sewers, but the ladies asked her if she’d like to learn how to sew, and soon, she was making the gowns herself. “She has been a huge asset,” DeVries said. She said it takes a team and she loves everyone who has helped with this.

The group gets together every other month, once on a weekday and then on a weekend at the American Reformed Church. “The church is so generous, letting us use the facility. You have to have people who care,” DeVries said.

“We’re always looking for volunteers, even for drop offs or pick ups. It takes a village,” she said.

Treasurer Gina Miller said, “Even donating thread.”

The group uses volunteers to deliver some of the packages of gowns to local hospitals. Miller said she was driving to Louisville to visit with family and took a shipment of gowns to the University of Louisville Medical Center.

“It’s heart-warming when we hand deliver the gowns,” DeVries said. “They are so grateful for the gowns. This is the only chance the parents have to dress their baby.” The gowns are donated so the organization is open to donations of materials and monetary gifts to continue to provide the beautiful tiny gowns.

The designs for the gowns come from the many creative minds that make them. They make bonnets and booties from the lace of wedding dresses. “There are so many varied ideas,” DeVries said. “We learn from one another.”

On the workdays, the volunteers bring their sewing machines and supplies. They share ideas, and they have a good time. They set up in sections so there is something at each worktable to do. They also take drop offs, finished sets, and give out more material for the person to take home and make more.

After speaking to the ladies, the volunteers gave a presentation to the three officers, DeVries, Miller and Bailey, thanking them for their hard work. They gave each one a card and a garden decoration with an angel holding a baby with Bible verse written on it. The ladies were surprised and humbled by the outpouring of love they received from the group.

DeVries said, “I put the word out, you all did the work.”

Phil Malavolta, who crochets gowns, said a prayer before the group sat down to lunch. In a voice filled with emotion, he said, “It is amazing what can be done with a dress to celebrate a union, then taken apart and used to celebrate a life that never made it long.”

While waiting at his doctor’s office, he spent the time crocheting. When he was asked what he was making, he explained about the organization and what they do and before he left, he was given a check from the office, Cardiovascular Consulting in Hobart from Drs. Ziegler and Stepanovic, which he presented to Miller as well.

DeVries said the organization is open to speaking engagements because they want to get the word out. They already have over 2,000 followers on Facebook. They also have a web site, angelswrappedinlove.com. It is a 501©3 non-profit organization so donations are tax deductible.

They accept donations of lace, ribbons, yarn in pastel colors, flannel or plain satin and small safety pins as well.

To donate to the Angels Wrapped in Love, mail to PO Box 642, DeMotte IN 46310, email angelswrappedinlove@gmail.com or visit the web site.

“A life may last for just a moment, but a memory can make that moment last forever.”