Kim Garrett had no reservations when she took scissors to her wedding gown.
"You know, it was OK because, yes, the gown was a beginning, but you're giving someone an amazing gift. I just focused on that," she said.
The Orcutt mother of two is among more than 20 seamstresses who have volunteered their time and sewing expertise to transform more than 100 donated wedding dresses into special, handmade gowns for babies who never make it home from the hospital.
These “angel” gowns are gifted to grieving families for final photographs or burial.
The Angel Gowns for Dignity program was brought to Marian Regional Medical Center by Susan Breshears, senior financial analyst at Marian, after she learned about similar programs and was moved to bring the program closer to home.
“The purpose of Angel Gowns for Dignity is to not only to bring comfort and healing to families, but to also provide these special babies with dignity in death,” Breshears said. “Like our ministry at Marian, this program reflects what we stand for as an organization – to provide each person with the inherent dignity they deserve and to provide families in need with compassion and kindness.
"I am truly touched by the outpouring of acts of human kindness I have witnessed as the program’s work is bringing healing to both grieving families and those who are sewing the gowns with love.”
Garrett, a school health assistant by trade, learned to sew at her mother's knee.
"I'm very crafty. It was something I can do at home and be very productive. I like the creative process of it, too," she said.
So far, she's made more than two dozen of the tiny gowns, and another 20 pockets which are used for infants too small for even the smallest gown.
She also shares a special bond with the babies and parents who receive her handiwork.
"I had a miscarriage myself a very, very long time ago. Back then, they didn't really talk about it. It was just, 'Go home. Go back to work tomorrow.' I'm happy to be part of the compassion they're showing these people in a very difficult time," Garrett said.
Carrie Camacho, a registered nurse, is one of some 15 Marian employees who recently donated their wedding dresses for the cause.
"I have experienced four miscarriages and it means the world to me that my dress will provide comfort to a family experiencing such pain and sorrow. I feel that this donation means so much more than just providing a dress for material use; my hope is that I am able to bless another family and that through my donation they will feel the love I felt when I got married," Camacho said.
Mary Richards, registered nurse and newborn intensive care unit clinical nurse specialist, knows just how special angel gown donations are.
“Parents are usually never prepared for the loss of a baby. The end of life should be as beautiful as the beginning of life and my prayer is that angel gown donations will honor these little angels and be both a positive and emotional gift for families," Richards said.
Breshears, like many supporters of Angel Gowns for Dignity, was touched to learn that many families who have lost a child experience great difficulty finding burial outfits, since traditional pieces of baby clothing are often too large for stillborn or premature infants.
Through Angel Gowns for Dignity, families can select not only one, but two gowns: one for the burial of their child and a second as a keepsake for families to cherish and remember their baby.
"It's all handled very quickly so parents don't have the added stress. It's all about the parents and what we're trying to do for them," Garrett said.
To make a contribution in support of Angel Gowns for Dignity, contact the Marian Foundation at 739-3595.