“We made more than 34,000 dresses in total … our chapter here in Tampa made almost 1,000 … with the help of people from the community such as Eula Bacon … I do a lot of things here at the court – currently I work with children – but in my life, touching children and families to me has been so important to what I have always worked for. I will probably never meet one of the little girls who will wear one of the dresses, but the ability to touch someone’s life in a meaningful way, to let them know that there are people who care about them and who are invested in their success and interests, is important to me.” – Hon. Barbara Twine-Thomas, 13th Judicial Circuit Judge, Hillsborough County.
Eula T. Bacon is not only a high-energy law student at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, she is also deeply involved in her community and in serving others. One of her many talents is sewing. And as part of the Little Dresses for Africa project, Eula has, to date, created 17 dresses for little girls in Africa, plus has inspired fellow law students, friends and family to help also.
“All lawyers are required to do pro bono service,” said Eula, “but lawyers do more than just the community workshops or volunteering to help a client who does not have the funds to pay for services. As a law school student, we can’t practice the law, but I always look for opportunities, and the school provides opportunities for us to go out and help in the legal community.”
And that’s how Eula learned about the Little Dresses for Africa project. She was volunteering at the George Edgecomb Bar Association where Judge Twine-Thomas was a featured panel speaker. After the session, Eula was able to talk with Judge Twine-Thomas. She mentioned to Eula that she was going to go home and start sewing dresses for the project. That conversation sparked an excitement for her to get involved.
“I grew up sewing – my mother taught me how to sew – I asked her what the project was about. And when she said – Sewing. Little girls. Africa. – I thought; Wow, this will be a great project. I just became so excited about it. The dresses are going to little girls in Africa, but when you create the dresses (in the sewing circles that Judge Twine-Thomas created), you have a chance to talk to people in the community and they can see legal professionals as more than just the lawyer. They can see them as human beings and that we care about people and we care about service. I love that part of it.”
Judge Twine-Thomas has served others her entire life. It started long before her service in the legal profession over 40 years ago. As a college student, she became very involved in her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and through the sorority most recently, the Little Dresses for Africa project. “Service to all mankind” is the motto of the 200,000 member sorority, and her church’s philosophy is “If you want justice, work for peace.” These two things together, she says, define who she is. Judge Twine-Thomas was so moved by the Little Dresses for Africa Project, that she chairs the Tampa chapter in the global initiative.
“For several successive weeks we met weekly and sewed together,” recalled Judge Twine-Thomas about the Little Dress for Africa Project. “And as we sewed, we talked about our lives, our friendships, our relationships, and slowly the enthusiasm about what we were doing – making dresses for little girls on the other side of earth – was so motivating. Eventually it was infectious. Everybody around us, everybody who heard about the project wanted to be a part of it.”
“I’m involved in a lot of women’s organizations and I believe in empowering woman. When you are empowering women, you are empowering humanity.”
Judge Barbara Twine-Thomas demonstrates to WMU-Cooley student Eula T. Bacon how to make Dresses for Africa out of a pillow case.