Every day she makes another dress for a small child she’ll never meet.
“I could probably make two a day, but I only make one,” she says.
The dresses are collected and sent overseas to little girls in Africa by a Christian outreach group called “Little Dresses for Africa”.
“I have to be busy,” says Lillian.
And she’s been very busy.
In the past two years she’s made more than 840 dresses and she plans to make 150 more by May 6th of next year.
You see, by next May, Lillian will turn 100 years old and it will be her one thousandth dress.
“It’s just one of those things you learn how to do and enjoy,” she says.
In Lillian’s Scott County farm house are completed dresses for little girls, made from a pattern, but each with extra stitching and individual details, designed to give each child a little extra pride.
“She personalizes them all,” says Lillian’s daughter, Linda Purcell. “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.”
What started as a hobby has become a daily labor of love.
Lillian says she starts work on a dress in the morning, takes a break during the midday, and puts finishing touches in the afternoon.
“I just think she’s somebody to look up to, somebody whose not just sitting around and frittering her life away,” says Tonya Urbatsch, who nominated Lillian for the “Pay It Forward” award.
“I’m amazed at her every day,” adds Linda. “I’m very, very proud of my mother.”
Family and friends will continue to be proud of Lillian, well after her 1000th dress. After all, 1000 is just a number.
“When I get to that thousand, if I’m able to. I won’t quit. I’ll go at it again because there’s no reason to not do nothing.”
When Lillian is finished with her dresses, her daughters deliver them to a Davenport senior living apartment complex where a group of residents have a weekly sewing appointment to make dresses for the charitable organization.
“Little Dresses for Africa” is a Christian charitable organization founded in 2008 in Michigan.
Its founder, Rachel O’Neill, says 2.5 million dresses have been distributed.
The simple dresses are distributed to orphanages, churches, and schools in Africa.
Rachel says she’s traveling to Africa again in September 2014 and February 2015 and hopes to be able to present to a child one of the dresses personally made by Lillian.