GREENFIELD — Kathy Uhrick always wanted to be a volunteer, but with her full-time job as a medical secretary, it was hard to find the time.
Life quickly changed when she was diagnosed in 2011 with hydrocephalus — extra fluid putting pressure on her brain — and underwent three brain surgeries to repair it.
Following those surgeries, Uhrick had to relearn most of the things that came easy before, like walking. She never did regain her balance, leaving her in a wheelchair. She couldn’t work — but the Greenfield resident, an accomplished seamstress, could still sew.
She now dedicates five hours a day to sewing doll clothes she donates to the Hope House Thrift Shop, which funds more than half of the $289,000 annual operating cost of the Hope House, the county’s only homeless shelter.
Uhrick’s dedication to crafting new items for the 8,000-square-foot thrift shop to sell is exceptional, said manager Angie Lyons. While the store at 35 E. Pierson St. contains a myriad of handmade items, there’s no other person who has devoted their time in the same way as Uhrick, Lyons said.
“It’s a unique situation,” Lyons said. “It’s something we’re very grateful for.”
Uhrick first began sewing clothes for 18-inch dolls about four years ago, when she gained a 6-year-old step-granddaughter through her daughter’s marriage, she said.
She still was recovering from her brain injury — still adjusting to her reality after the surgeries.
“I had to relearn life,” she said. “I had to learn how to sew again, so I started by making doll clothes for her dolls.”
She happened upon the Hope House Thrift Shop one day while shopping with a friend and noticed a table of new afghans crafted local church-goers. It wasn’t long after Uhrick offered to start sewing clothes for dolls there, from dresses and tops to leggings and pajamas for the popular American Girl dolls.
For about two years, Uhrick and her husband, Roland, have brought about $100 in items hot off her sewing machine to the thrift shop every two weeks, she said.
Though her granddaughter has outgrown playing with the dolls, she delights in helping her grandma pick out fabrics and trims for the clothes she makes for the charity shop, Kathy Uhrick said.
She hopes to inspire others to visit the thrift store supporting the Hope House, which provided some 4,000 nights of shelter last year. The store is a well-kept secret in the community, she added, saying she had lived in Greenfield 30 years without knowing about it.
Roland Uhrick said the volunteering has given her purpose after her brain injury.
“I think it’s a real good outlet for her,” he said. “It’s sort of hard to go some place and volunteer because of the mobility aspect. With this, she can sew at home, pack it off to the thrift shop, and it’s not a big deal.”
The Hope House Thrift Shop, 35 E. Pierson St., is an 8,000-square-foot space selling everything from furniture to art supplies.
The store funds more than half of the Hope House homeless shelter’s operating costs.
9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
First Saturday of the month is half-price day
For more information, call manager Angie Lyons at 317-477-0213.