The Sewing Labs and Volunteer KC create tote bags for the unhoused

Nikki Lansford
Editorial Assistant


The Sewing Labs is partnering with Volunteer KC to create some resourceful fashions to help the unhoused community. Together the two organizations have started a project to make reusable tote bags for those who are currently displaced in the Kansas City area.


The Sewing Labs Executive Director Eileen Bobowski said Tiffany Buckley, President of Volunteer KC, approached her with the concept for the bags last year. Buckley asked if the Sewing Labs could help her in simplifying the construction of the tote bag.


“She worked with our operations manager and one of our instructors to simplify the sewing for it,” Bobowski said.


About a year after this interaction, Buckley reached out once more saying Volunteer KC had acquired all the necessary materials to make the bags, but needed actual stitchers to put them together, Bobowski said.


The Sewing Labs, being a training center to teach sewing toward employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, already had a good volunteer base that they were willing to lend towards this project.


Since March, The Sewing Labs has made over 67,000 face masks through their own 200-plus at-home student and volunteer stitchers for the people of Kansas City. Since the need for masks was slowly waning as they became more accessible, Bobowski said it was a natural transition for its stitchers to switch to the tote bags.


Each stitcher is given a kit to make the bags, which they pick up curbside at The Sewing Labs, who just recently moved inside the newly-refurbished Don Bosco Community Center at 526 Campbell St. Once completed, the volunteers then drop off the tote bags back at the center. It is then the task of those with Volunteer KC to distribute them to the community.


Each kit comes with 10 bags to assemble. So far, 20 kits have been completed, meaning 200 bags have already been made within just the first week of the project starting. Currently, there is no limit set on how many bags will be produced.


“They are super easy to put together,” said Brenda Daly, a Northeast resident and volunteer at The Sewing Labs since 2017. “It only took me 45 minutes to sew a bag.”


The front of the bags are all screen printed with a map of Kansas City, outlining helpful resources for the homeless. The back of the bags are also screen printed with a contact list of 18 different resources ranging from where someone can go to get food or where they can get warm.


“The plan for these bags is once they’re sewn, they’ll be filled with toiletries and essential needs and snacks,” Bobowoski said. “And then they’ll be distributed through a lot of the agencies listed on the bag.”


Bobowski said The Sewing Labs has in the past also done a fleece hat and scarf project, which they plan to do again this year and will fill the bags with those, as well.


At The Sewing Labs, community is so much of what they do and is at the heart of their mission, Bobowski said. The tote bag project is just another way for this organization, with the help of Volunteer KC, to uplift the community.

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