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Local woman making and selling purses in Morris to benefit Haitian students

Handmade 3-in-1 purses to benefit sewing classes in Haiti

MORRIS – Outside In is selling handmade three-in-one purses that hold a special purpose.

The antique and home furnishing store, which relocated from Plano to Morris in December, recently added part-time Morris resident LeAnne Glabe to its group of 26 vendors, said Valerie Baker, who co-owns the store with her daughter, Kristal Hutchings.

Glabe designed and hand-sewed the purses to help raise money for new sewing machines at a Haiti technical school, where Glabe teaches beginning sewing once a year.

The purses are reversible and adjustable, which means each purse can function as three purses. Baker was happy to feature the purses at her store and said they are selling.

“We like unique items,” Baker said, “and they are very high quality.”

The lofty reason for the purses

About eight years ago, LeAnne Glabe and her husband, Seneca native Gary Glabe, began volunteering as missionaries in Haiti through One Mission Society, based in Indiana, LeAnne Glabe said.

Two years ago, a technical school was instituted in the area the Glabes serve. LeAnn Glabe, who sews, offered to teach a beginning sewing class, she said.

The Glabes facilitated the donation of eight sewing machines.

With the assistance of five translators, LeAnne Glabe taught her first beginning sewing class to 16 students in one very small room.

The following year, LeAnne Glabe limited the class to nine students. This time, she had a second instructor, which made the experience manageable, LeAnn Glabe said.

“So many times, it’s one-on-one,” she said. “Everyone’s asking questions, and you get pulled in so many directions.”

Last year, the owner of a Haiti sewing business partnered with the technical school, LeAnne Glabe said, and began offering advanced classes.

The goal was to improve the students’ quality of work and advance them to his business.

It’s joyful news for LeAnn Glabe. She heard the same refrain from her students, men and women of all ages.

“They want to provide for their families,” LeAnn Glabe said, “to make something and then – with it – get an income.”

But the rise in students meant rapid decline of the sewing machines, which weren’t intended for industrial use, LeAnne Glabe said.

But if she could raise $1,000 to $2,000, she could upgrade all eight machines.

That’s where the purses come in.

In January, LeAnne Glabe visited her mother in Florida.

Together, they took a class on making these reversible purses. It wasn’t the first time they sewed together. LeAnne Glabe said was 11 when her mother taught her to sew.

“We’ve always had different sewing projects through the years,” LeAnne Glabe said. “Then there were a few years when I was busy with life and working full-time that I didn’t sew all the time.”

That changed with the sewing classes at the technical school. LeAnne Glabe decided to refine her skills and pass the benefits on to her students.

As she began creating purses, she realized those purses could help purchase sewing machines.

LeAnne Glabe said she has placed her purses on Etsy, too. As they sell, she plans to replenish the stock.

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