Some real people touching lives with real numbers

Do you get as baffled as I do with all these statistics about the millions and billions and trillions of dollars being tossed around? Especially when you can't connect the money to anything tangible?

I guess I've always been a hands-on sort of person. I need more show than tell.

Gloria Bantekas of Tiny Stitches, a charity group that provides layettes for needy babies, recently sent me a statistic that I just couldn't get a handle on. She said Garan, maker of the children's clothing called Garanimals had donated 5,600 pounds of fabric. I couldn't comprehend how much that was. I just had to see it.

She directed me to Your Extra Attic in Sugar Hill where AAA Cooper Trucking Company had delivered the shipment free of charge. There I saw a 10-foot-by-10- foot unit stacked halfway to the ceiling with soft cotton knits, fabric that is difficult to find. Now just how far will this fabric go?

Baby gowns weigh 4 ounces, so that would make 22,400 gowns. If it were all used for baby hats, at 1 ounce apiece, that would top the heads of 89,600 babies, more than half the student enrollment of Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Of course to do that, Tiny Stitches needs volunteers.

"We have about 200 volunteers on our list and about 100 active members who provide something at least once a month," Bantekas said.

Since they started in 1999, Tiny Stitches has donated nearly 150,000 items. Bantekas projects the fabric will last six years at that rate. But the demand outweighs the supply, especially of volunteer labor and sewing isn't the only skill needed.

If you like to knit or crochet, the group always needs afghans. And you don't have to live in Gwinnett County to contribute.

"We had an 89-year-old volunteer, Christine Sampson, featured in Essence magazine. She told them about working with Tiny Stitches for many years making afghans and sweaters. We recently received several afghans from residents of New York City stating that if Christine can help, so can they," Bantekas said.

For those who like to shop till they drop, Tiny Stitches needs people who like to bargain hunt for yarn, batting and sewing supplies on the Web or in bargain basements. Anyone who has a way with words is welcome to use that talent for writing grant requests.

"We have people who just help in the warehouse, folding and packaging garments. One gentleman pays for one of our storage units every year. We even provide 'community service' for people. One man came to us needing 100 hours. We put him to work cutting out patterns," Bantekas said.

OK. I got my hands-on exposure to the numbers Tiny Stitches works with. They're pretty real. But the real hands on experience is the love all the volunteers, no matter what they do, put behind every stitch. To get in touch, visit www.tinystitches.org.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.