BETHLEHEM Somewhere in their homes, most people have an old and unwanted sewing machine.
Maybe the old machine has been passed down through generations of seamstresses, quilting is a forgotten hobby or the machine was an undesired gift. Delmar resident Charlie Hughes is now working to collect these old machines to help provide a better life for impoverished people around the world.
“People do one of two things,” said Hughes. “They throw out their old machines (instead of donating it) because they have a nice new one or they have an old one they refuse to get rid of because it has emotional value. I’m also guilty of this. I have a machine in my cellar that belonged to my late wife’s mother, but it’s still functional and workable so I’m finally going to give it away.”
Since 1999 the not-for-profit organization Pedals for Progress has collected old sewing machines to help provide people in need with a self-sustaining occupation. The group also collects old bicycles to be donated to developing counties where they are still needed for transportation.
Altogether, Pedals for Progress has collected and distributed over 130,000 bicycles in its 20-year history. Last year, Hughes collected 200 bikes through the help of the congregation of St. Vincent de Paul in Albany. Those bikes were sent to the East African country of Tanzania.
The bikes and often the sewing machines aren't actually given away to people. They have to be purchased them from a local agency distributing the items at market price. This serves not only to stimulate the local economy but also to strengthen the groups Pedals for Progress works with because those who pay for the items value them more.
“We say the bikes allow someone to get to a job, while with sewing machines provide the job, said Beverly Merchant, a spokeswoman for the Pedals for Progress organization of New Jersey.