Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Anti-Poverty Funds Go to Neighborhood Sewing Program

A grant of $30,000 has been awarded to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church to launch an anti-poverty program called SewGreen@Rochester. The grant is one of five chosen from 129 applicants nationwide by the Episcopal Domestic Poverty Ministry and will be used to provide sewing skills and job opportunities to Rochester’s most impoverished families.

The Rev. Georgia Carney, a deacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, is the driving force behind SewGreen@Rochester. Her goal is to create a sewing and reuse program modeled on SewGreen, a similar not-for-profit in Ithaca NY that has been operating for seven years. The two organizations will work together, sharing ideas and materials, and gaining inspiration from each other’s successes.

“When Georgia proposed developing a SewGreen program in Rochester, I was instantly on board,” says SewGreen founder and director Wendy Skinner. “The two programs have many things in common, and we believe that the collaboration will benefit the communities in both locations.”

SewGreen operates a resale store in Ithaca that carries donated fabrics, yarn, sewing supplies, and refurbished sewing machines. The store diverts about 25 tons of materials a year from going to landfills. The program also provides sewing classes for all ages, free apprenticeships to at-risk youth, and meaningful jobs for teens and young people.

Carney explains that SewGreen@Rochester will teach neighborhood people to use sewing machines with a focus on developing these skills to earn money or get jobs. Although the specific location has not been determined, her vision is a storefront in an economically challenged urban neighborhood near homes and schools. The space would be half classroom and half resale store carrying donated materials and repurposed items.

“The job skills that can be learned through SewGreen@Rochester include entrepreneurial enterprise, production sewing, seamstress services, sewing machine repair, sales, and teaching,” says Carney.

Carney’s dedication to underprivileged populations is well-established. She has guided adults and youth in activities ranging from mending and sewing to gardening and selling the produce at a farm stand. She is also an expert seamstress who loves to share her skills.

“A common interest in sewing bridges many differences within our diverse urban population, for those with a faith community and those without,” adds Carney. “We believe the program will help foster respect and understanding, and advance abilities not always recognized in the formal educational system.”