Sewing love: Asbury Place Assisted Living resident’s projects benefit ReachHaiti Ministries
By Lesli Bales-Sherrod
Elizabeth Franklin’s apartment at Asbury Place Assisted Living is overflowing with what she calls her “projects.”
“I’ve always done sewing, and I can make anything,” explains Franklin, 89. “I’ve got 100 teddy bears out in the craft room plus 36 backpacks at this point and close to 20 capes.”
These and other projects such as “pillowcase” dresses and pottery cross necklaces are bound, as usual, for orphanages in Haiti. For several years now, Franklin has supported Restoration International Outreach’s ReachHaiti Ministries by sewing whatever the missionaries tell her they need for the children.
“I always wanted to be involved in mission work, but I never got to go anywhere,” Franklin says simply. “So my mission work was doing something for other people — cooking a meal or baking a loaf of bread. I just try to be friends with everybody and help everybody I can.”
A lifelong United Methodist and still active member of Green Meadow United Methodist Church, Franklin first started sewing for Haiti when fellow Asbury Place resident Taz Puckett’s granddaughter, Andrea Brewer, made a trip over there and decided to open an orphanage. Brewer and her husband Mike founded ReachHaiti Ministries in 2009.
“We all thought so much of Taz that we just wanted to help his granddaughter,” Franklin remembers of her friend, who passed away in 2011. “So we made school bags and sent them over the first time, and she told us about the children and brought us pictures.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I say, ‘What do you need next?’” Franklin explains, showing off a framed photo of ReachHaiti missionaries David and Jennifer Reece. “The last time they took a box, I went down to the send-off at their church.”
Since the word has spread about her mission work, Franklin finds herself with plenty of donations — “Everybody who cleans their house brings me material; just look around!” she says with a laugh — but she also makes some of her “projects” to sell so that she can buy other materials she needs. One of her most recent and successful creations are aprons made out of pants, which she mostly has decorated with a University of Tennessee motif for football season.
And when Franklin’s not busy sewing for Haiti, she’s sewing for Asbury Place, creating bags that can go on walkers and wheelchairs and other projects. She also does hemming and mending for Asbury Place residents.
“I lived by myself 10 years after my husband died, and I was getting tired of that,” Franklin says matter-of-factly. “My husband and I were at (Holston) Annual Conference when they brought this up and voted to build it, so Asbury Place has been in my heart since before it ever started.”
Franklin stays active in the assisted living facility where she has lived for six years now, walking a mile and a half before breakfast each day and participating in activities such as the ToneChimers, which is similar to a handbell choir.
And she also finds ways to get her fellow Asbury Place residents involved in her mission work for Haiti. In fact, they just helped her stuff and draw faces on 100 teddy bears, she notes.
“I’ll cut out teddy bears one day and not do anything else. I’ll cut out dresses one day and not do anything else. Then I’ll sit down and sew all day one day. So I have no earthly idea how long it takes me to make one thing,” Franklin says. “But it’s something for me to do! It’s my joy of living: sewing.”