Bea Vincent wants readers to know that she has job openings. In fact, she is in desperate need of a few good seamstresses.
There’s no financial compensation, but she is certain that anyone who takes on the sewing will be compensated through joy and satisfaction with the work, just as she and her husband, Francis, have been.
Your Catholic Herald introduced you to Bea nearly five years ago in a “People of Faith” story titled, “Tailor-made ministry benefits children in need.” The story featured the then-80 year old retired tannery worker who began sewing clothes for “poor children” in 1967, six years after she had recuperated from a stroke at age 37.
The stroke was so severe it left her completely paralyzed, she described in a recent telephone interview with your Catholic Herald.
Want to help?
Readers interested in helping sew may contact Bea Vincent, (262) 673-5443. The Vincents also welcome donations of new fabric or sewing supplies.
“I was told, I’d never walk or talk again,” she said, a trace of her English accent still evident in her voice. Determined to prove the doctors wrong, knowing that she had a 15-year-old daughter, Marge, to care for, Bea rehabilitated herself at home and now experiences no effects from the stroke.
“When I was so sick, I heard of the children in need, and when I was told I’d never walk or talk again, I said, ‘No!’ I put my arms together and said, ‘St. Jude, help me. Dear Lord, if I get my strength back, I will find a way to help the children.’”
Once she was able, she began sewing children’s clothes and donating them to area shelters. Her volunteering soon became a full-time venture, consuming about 50 hours of her time a week.
And her production quantities would make a small factory proud. For example, in 2010, she made more than 5,000 pieces of clothing, down slightly from the previous year when her total was 6,017, 385 quilts, 96 baby quilts and 107 afghans.
Bea uses approximate 80 patterns and sews everything from jumpers to dresses, to skirts, shorts and blouses in sizes 1 to 16. The finished clothing is sent to shelters in the Milwaukee area, including the Family Crisis Center, the American Red Cross, Hebron House and Joy House. Last November, she received a letter of thanks from the House of Peace thanking her for a recent donation of six boxes of clothing.
“Please know your kindness will assist many needy families in the greater Milwaukee area. Our Capuchin clothing center serves hundreds of families each month with ready to wear clothing. This would be impossible without the assistance of partners like you,” wrote executive director, Gerry Sheets Howard.
After retiring from his job as a foreman at International Stamping in 1982, Francis began helping Bea with her clothing making. Today, the couple works in their Hartford home putting in the 50-hour week together. Francis cuts out all the patterns and also does all the buttonholes. Bea sews and packages the items. She also packages supplies for her small army of helpers who assemble clothing in their homes using the materials she provides.
As people learned of the Vincents’ ministry over the years, several volunteered to help. Bea provides them with a box of supplies for each project and gives them freedom to finish it when they can. Late last year, three of her longtime volunteers had to quit, she explained, noting that the ladies are in their 90s and cannot continue with the work.
Five volunteers remain, but Bea stressed that she needs more help.
“I am in great need of two ladies to help right now,” she wrote in a plea to your Catholic Herald last November. “There is no set time to have the sewing done; no buttonholes to make, no zippers to put in. I have one lady that puts the zippers in and my husband makes all the buttonholes and sews on all the buttons. So far this year, we have made 787 buttonholes.”
Bea explained that the seamstresses would pick the materials up from her Hartford home and return them whenever the clothing is completed.
In between sewing, Bea said she and Francis love to make soup and bake, but their biggest joy comes from knowing they are helping others.
One of her favorite memories is the knowledge that her efforts helped a family of five some three decades ago.
She was preparing to leave the house at 6:30 one morning in 1978, preparing to attend daily Mass, when she received a call telling her that a family had been found living in the woods in a pup tent. Destitute, the family needed warm clothes, and thanks to Bea, within a couple hours, she had rounded up clothing for all of them.
“It just makes me happy knowing that I am helping others,” she said. “I’m glad I can help and it’s certainly my faith that keeps me going. I am a devoted person to my Catholic faith.”