September 15, 2016
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Tri-County Times | Fenton, MI Sally Rummel Features Writer
Matt Mlinarich is a man with a mission, and a machine.
By day, he works behind the wheels of big machinery as owner of CMS Landscaping Company in Linden. By night, his equipment is a sewing machine. He uses his large, burly hands to sew ribbons, lace and hems on pillowcases, making them into dresses for young girls in Dine, Haiti.
Matt and his wife, Jamie, visited Haiti in January 2016 on a mission trip through their church, The Rock. They were moved to action by the poverty, the lack of clothing and shoes worn by young children in the villages. “God gave us a passion to do this,” said Jamie. “This is what God has called us to do.”
Every Saturday, the Mlinarich family, which includes Fischer, 7, Olivia, 9, and Carson, 12, gather with friends for a sew-a-thon, from morning until early afternoon, turning pillowcases into frilly dresses for girls, and shorts for boys.
Matt, who had never sewn a seam in his life, took to the project with all the enthusiasm he brings to his landscape and construction work. “He started out using Olivia’s pink and purple child-size sewing machine,” said Jamie. “Now he’s better at this than I am. It’s just another tool for him.”
It was Matt’s idea to add frill and lace to the pillowcases, to make each dress something special.
“There’s no reason each little girl shouldn’t feel like a princess,” said Matt.
Every evening, the Mliniarich family takes turns at their sewing machine in their Byron home, working toward their goal of making 100 dresses by April.
“We’ve made about 40 ourselves, as a family,” said Jamie. “We try to make a dress a night. We also add a tag with a Bible verse on each dress or shorts, so that the child receiving it knows the meaning behind the gift and God’s love for them.”
“The Pillowcase Project” has become more than just a family affair. The community has also gotten involved, with school classes and Girl Scout troops helping. The Mlinarichs plan to keep their mission mindset, with other projects to help children in need all around the globe, including the U.S.
Realtor Wade Pyles of Berkshire Hathaway Michigan Home Services in Fenton has also set up a donation box for clean new or gently used pillowcases.
The Rock is planning more mission trips to Haiti in March, April and August, and the Mlinarich family hopes to join them one day soon. “We’ll go back as soon as we raise enough money,” said Jamie. “Once our kids are old enough, we’ll take them with us.”
•59 per 1,000 born in Haiti die before reaching their first birthday
•59% of the population lives on less than US$2 per day
•24.7% of people in Haiti live in extreme poverty on less than US$1.25 per day