Lillian Weber, from Iowa, is almost 100 years old, but she doesn’t let her age stand in the way of her life’s mission – helping those in need. She spends every single day making a dress from scratch, so that a child in need will have something to wear. She started the unique project in 2011, and she’s made over 840 dresses so far. Her goal is to make 1,000.
Lillian, who was nominated for WQAD-TV’s ‘Pay It Forward’ award, gets started on a new dress every morning, takes a break at midday, and is finished by the afternoon. “It is just what I like to do,” she said. The dresses she makes are donated to Little Dresses for Africa, an organisation that distributes clothes to impoverished young girls in Africa and beyond.
It’s really quite remarkable that a 99-year-old woman can create a dress in just a few hours’ time. “I could probably make two a day, but I make only one,” she said. And according to her daughter Linda, Lillian actually personalises each one. “It’s not like good enough that she makes the dresses, she has to put something on the front to make it look special, to give it her touch,” said Linda.
“I’m amazed at her every day,” she added. “I’m very, very proud of my mother.”
“I just think she’s somebody to look up to,” said Tonya Urbatsch, who nominated her for the award. “Somebody that’s not just sitting around and frittering away the end of her life.”
It all started in 2011, when Lillian got together with a group of women over 80 years of age, and started making clothes to support Little Dresses for Africa. “I was watching a documentary about (the organisation), and thought it would be a great idea for some of us to get together to help some people who live so far away,” said Judy Noel, one of the group’s members.
The organisation’s founder Rachel O’Neill said that they have collected over 2.5 million dresses so far, which have been distributed in 47 African countries. Their goal, they say, is to provide clothing to some of the world’s most vulnerable children and ‘to plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy. Rachel is planning to travel to Africa in September and wants to personally present a child with one of Lillian’s dresses.
Meanwhile, Lillian will celebrate her 100th birthday next May. But she has no plans to stop sewing. “When I get to that thousand, if I’m able to, I won’t quit,” she said. “I’ll go at it again. It’s one of those things you learn how to do and enjoy.”