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Woman mends lives of refugees, natural disaster survivors with sewing machines

CBS News logo CBS News 5/18/2022 Janet Shamlian, Alicia Hastey
en-sewing-1.png © CBS News en-sewing-1.png

Victims of natural and manmade disasters often find themselves hanging by a thread to survive. A Wisconsin woman is trying to help survivors rebuild their lives by repairing both the physical and mental wounds of loss. 

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For crafters like Earnestine Smith and Trish Henderson, the soul is fed with needle and thread, but the tools that made them so happy were lost in Hurricane Harvey. 

That's when Margaret Jankowski turned up in Houston and handed out 125 brand new sewing machines in a parking lot. 

Jankowski started The Sewing Machine Project, which has now given out more than 3,600 new and used sewing machines, helping survivors of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and refugees from Afghanistan and Somalia. 

"It helps you economically and physically and mentally," Henderson told CBS News. 

It can be a tool of income for those starting over. 

"It is truly my passion," Jankowski told CBS News. "The fact I can collect them relatively easily and share them with people to whom it makes such a difference is life-changing for them and life-changing for me." 

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