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Jefferson Awards: The Sewing Machine Man

Jefferson Awards: The Sewing Machine Man

Each month, KRCG 13 will be honoring those giving back to our community.

Tonight, we want to introduce you to our first Jefferson Awards recipient, Jim Sandfry, or as many know him, "the sewing machine man".

"I retired 11 years ago and i work almost a full 40 hours a week," Sandfry said.

Sandfry replaced his full time job at IBM with volunteering at the sewing machine project.

He repairs donated sewing machines to help impoverished women in foreign countries.

"When I got involved, it was a small operation," Sandfry says. "We did 35-40 machines on site. The first year I got here, we were able to get out 75 machines that we shipped. We are now currently doing 300-350 and we have about 350-400 machines here in the two buildings we have them stored in."

Those machines are shipped around the world to places such as Haiti, Guatemala, Kenya and Costa Rica.

The women Sandfry helps, have no means of support.

But with one of the sewing machines, their lives can change.

Stitch by stich, they're able to better their future by making items they can sell in their communities.

"When we pack these, we pack enough material, fabric, scissors, needle, everything you need to start sewing with each machine; they have enough to get started," Sandfry said.

Throughout the years, more things have been added to their shipments to the women.

"I remember one in particular that I got real early in the game was a little shack somewhere... Dirt floor with a single light bulb hanging down and she had one of our sewing machines, two kids playing on the dirt floor and from that picture, we decided to start sending some toys," Sandfry said. "We pack some wooden toys that they manufacture here in central Missouri, the clubs and some other toys. We send tennis balls so the kids have something to play with while mom is sewing. We also found out, these ladies can't see well, so several years ago, we started buying and including reading glasses with them... They couldn't thread the needle."

Sandfry's love for sewing machines was woven as a child.

"I love working on sewing machines," he said. "There's a romance about working on sewing machines. I can still remember my mother on a treadle. It always fascinated me and so when I retired from IBM, I just started looking at that and got interested and ended up with too many machines in the house so my wife stopped that and that's why I came out here. It's just a lot of fun. This is the happiest place in Columbia. We have the best volunteers, we really do."

Sandfry says the sewing machine project will take any machine, new old, working or not.

They also take monetary donations as well as items such as scissors and fabric.

The telephone number to the Sewing Machine Project is 573.886.7877.

It is located at 1908 Heriford Road, Columbia, Missouri 65202.

To nominate someone in our community that's making a difference, click here and nominate them for a Jefferson Award.


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