Al Barrett has been sewing boating accessories for 30 years, but only in the last 16 has he found his true calling.
The salty sailor still creates the cushions, covers, and other marine canvas products as he always has, but now he takes his profits from his nautical upholstery business, Dunedin Canvas Works near Eddie's Bar & Grill, to fund his charity Threads of Hope.
Threads of Hope donates foot-powered sewing machines and provides education in making patterns, alterations and garment construction to widows and orphans. The foundation has sent sewing machines to 14 countries across the world, with a focus in Africa.
It was the voice of God that changed Al Barrett’s life. Standing in his kitchen almost 20 years ago, he felt God speak to him, and said, “I have given you the greatest gift, and it is my son.”
That moment led Barrett to church. Which led him to Bible College. Which led him to his wife Gail.
The couple spent their honeymoon in Tanzania and Kenya, not to enjoy sightseeing and safari, but for the purpose of spreading the word of God. On the long plane trip over, the couple sat next to a lawyer who was inspired by their mission. Before departing the plane, the lawyer handed them the cash from his wallet for their mission.
The Barretts arrived in a village of the Chagga people near Mount Kilimanjaro. Al Barrett asked the village pastor what the greatest needs of the people were. The pastor replied that widows needed sewing machines. Profits from sewing provides vital income, and two machines had recently been stolen from the village.
At that moment, the Barretts remembered the $50 the lawyer had given them. They gave it to the pastor to buy new machines. That is how the idea for Threads of Hope was born.
“At first I didn’t know how any of it was going to work,” Barrett says. “Starting Threads of Hope really tested my faith. For the first four or five years, I wondered if I was going to lose my business and worried how I was going to pay the bills, but I have been blessed to bless others. We still live paycheck to paycheck, but you can’t put your identity in wealth or that becomes your god.”
Threads of Hope is working on building a sewing center for the Maasai people in Kenya in a rural area in Ngoswani. The Maasai are historically nomadic people but government pressure and fencing of land is killing off their nomadic ways. They are in need of new skills to continue to thrive.
The new education and sewing center will be built in an area trafficked by tourists on their way to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, an attraction known for its large populations of lions, leopards and cheetahs. The center will have a gift shop where widows can sell their items.
The money has already been raised to build the sewing center, but Threads of Hope is still trying to raise another $5,000 toward shipping fees for the sewing machines and generators. Donations are accepted at www.threadsofhope.org.
Want to Go?
You can also help by commissioning some custom work at Dunedin Canvas Works. Then review your experience on Patch!
- Where: Dunedin Canvas Works, 1297 Bayshore Blvd Dunedin, FL 34698
- Contact: 727-733-5800