Crafting for cash in the Rio Grande Valley

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Buckner International

A few months ago, Lorena Reyes, 26, didn’t know the first thing about handicrafts. Today, she’s a crafting queen.

She’s part of a new program at the Buckner Community Transformation Center in the Rio Grande Valley called Karis Abounds.

“I used to know nothing about sewing,” Reyes said. “Now, thanks to the classes, I can make bags and sell. I also learned to crochet to make bracelets and purses. I’ve already sold some of the crocheted purses I’ve made.”

Every Wednesday, women gather at the CTC to learn sewing from volunteer teacher Umbelina Flores. Last September they started learning how to make a dress, from creating a pattern to putting together the final product.

Reyes and the other women have been eager to gain proficiency in the new skill, and several of the ladies check out sewing machines from the CTC so they can practice or work on other projects at home. Before beginning the dressmaking course, they created simple shoulder bags and ladybug potholders.

“It has been a great journey for me, seeing how this program has evolved,” said Gabriel Flores, community coordinator at the CTC. “One of the ladies, Ofelia, said to me that the sewing classes also gave her the opportunity to become close friends with two other neighborhood ladies. This helped me realize that our work at CTC is not just another program, but also a bonding and transforming experience for those we serve.”

Flores and other Buckner staff helped plan and promote several outdoor market days near the CTC so that families involved in the CTC and others could come together to sell products.

Reyes is already seeing her new skills benefit her family. She continues to create and sell purses, and hopes to make more income on the side by doing alterations.

“With this new way of earning income, we can pay our water bill,” she said. “It used to be harder to pay it. My husband is a carpenter and does masonry, so if he’s out of work, things are a struggle.

“If the CTC wasn’t here, I never would have learned to do this,” she said. “There’s no one else close by who teaches these kinds of skills. I’m thankful for Buckner and I’m very thankful for the teachers that donate their time so that we can move forward and learn all these things.”

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