SOMERS POINT — When St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church was looking to participate in Make a Difference Day, the day of service celebrated Saturday by churches and groups around the U.S., the list of worthy ways to serve seemed endless.

Volunteers from various states have raised thousands of dollars for everything from Hurricane Sandy relief to beds for homeless teens on Make a Difference Day, according to the movement’s website.

Laurel Marchesini, director of Lifelong Faith Formation, said a parishioner came up with the idea of participating in Dress a Girl Around the World as the service event that will take place at the church Friday.

The all-day sewing event uses instructions and sewing templates to provide new dresses for girls in need of them in dozens of countries, including Thailand, India, Haiti, Brazil, the U.S. and Afghanistan.

“Dress a Girl Around the World dresses are new dresses made a specific way,” Marchesini said. “In some of the countries they will be sent to, if a young girl looks as though she’s not being cared for, it makes them more susceptible to traffickers.”

So far, the list of participants for the event is growing. The more people who are willing to participate, the more dresses will be completed.

Marchesini said at least 26 people with sewing machines are set to participate.

A team of second- and third-graders will be “runners” to bring materials back and forth. The event is open to all ages and skills levels.

“So many people have donated fabric. We’ve given it to people to work on and cut at home,” Marchesini said.

Marchesini said she got in touch with a Dress a Girl ambassador in New York who has taken trips to some of the countries to which the dresses are delivered to ensure girls are receiving them.

“Kids can help run back and forth, and we need people to help with the donated food,” she said.

Marchesini said if the event goes well this year, the church would like to continue with more events. With the materials and templates, volunteers can continue to make dresses at home. The Dress a Girl Around the World project operates year-round.

“Some people don’t know how to sew, and that’s OK,” Marchesini said. “There will be two different dress styles to work on. We’re going to knock out as many as we can and go until 2 or 3 p.m. or until everyone gets tired or we run out of fabric.”

Marchesini said participants are encouraged to continue to make the dresses at home throughout the year. Instructions to make the dresses according to the specifications can be found on the Dress a Girl website. The website gives guidance on pockets and sizing and provides tutorials those participating at home may find useful.

When enough dresses are turned in to St. Joseph, Marchesini will send them off.

“We’ll try it and see what happens,” Marchesini said. “I’m sure this won’t be the last time.”

Contact: 609-272-7209 Twitter @ACPressSchweder

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