When Sonia, a student at the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences, was coming up with ideas for her year-long 8th grade project, she thought back to one of her first passions—sewing. “I’ve been sewing since I was 6 or 7 so that’s been something that I’ve always really liked to do,” she said. “I wanted to tie that into helping other people.”
Homelessness was an issue Sonia felt strongly about. “It just breaks my heart to see kids my own age on the streets so I wanted to really help them,” she said. Thinking about how she could combine her talents with efforts to alleviate homelessness, the Annie Ross House immediately came to mind.
Sonia knew about the Annie Ross House because of her school’s involvement with the shelter. Each year, Arbor School students raise money for the Annie Ross House at their annual Arborfest held in September, and all Arbor School 8th graders take a trip to visit the shelter and learn more about its role in the community.
Sonia decided that for her project, she would sew pajama pants and blankets for the guests at the Annie Ross House family emergency shelter. She set up a fundraiser to offset the costs of the materials and was blown away when she quickly reached and exceeded her goal.
Next, she set out to find a mentor to help her plan and execute her idea. She found that person in Irina Robertson, an employee at the Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. “That was a really awesome experience for me,” said Sonia. “I walked into a random shop, talked to a stranger, and got to know her really well.” Irina had lots of great ideas for how to proceed with the project and soon Sonia and her family and friends were spending several hours a week at the sewing shop making pajamas and blankets for shelter guests.
Of course, plans changed when covid-19 began to spread. She was no longer able to gather in groups to sew her creations. In addition, Sonia shifted to sewing face masks for shelter residents and staff to help keep them safe.
The Annie Ross House shelter guests and staff have been so appreciative of Sonia’s generous donations and all the time and energy she has put into this project. And Sonia said she has been learned a lot about community throughout her project—from the shops like Bolt Fabric that donated fabric to her as well as the coaching she received from her mentor Irina, and the support of everyone who donated to her project—“Seeing all the people who have been willing to help me has been really cool,” she said.