Caring can change a life

By Regina Villiers. Originally published December 22, 1993 in The Suburban Life, added December 15, 2020.

Billie Yeomans, Salvation Army doll chairwoman, holds a doll she dressed.

     Little girls and dolls are synonymous at Christmas.  It’s hard to think of one without the other.

     And it’s the most universal wish of every little girl to receive a doll at Christmas.  Not all of them do, but a group of dedicated women volunteers with the Salvation Army try to see that many of them wake up on Christmas morning to find dolls.  

     The doll-dressing project of the Salvation Army is a nationwide movement, but it has been done locally since 1956.  The Salvation Army furnishes undressed dolls, and volunteers sew clothes for them.

     Many of the women involved in the project live in Madeira, including the doll chairwoman, Billie Yeomans.

     Yeomans insists she’s not the executive type and is not cut out to be chairman, but she obviously does a good job, for this he second consecutive year as chairwoman.

     “Just give me my needle, and I’m happy,” she says.  “I like to dress the dolls.”

     This year, Yeomans dressed three dolls to be given away and two auction dolls.  The auction dolls are special dolls dressed by the better dressers to be auctioned off to make money to buy undressed dolls for next year’s project.  The auction dolls have elaborate wardrobes and usually bring elaborate prices.

     One of Yeomans’ auction dolls not only came with her elaborate wardrobe, meticulously stitched by Yeomans, but she was also astride her own wooden rocking horse and had her own decorated Christmas tree.  The se sold for $180 at the auction.

     Yeomans believes in doing things well, and she is one of the better dressers in the group.  She thinks nothing of spending hours and hours at hand-hemming tiny ruffles for a tiny dress.  The women keep a tally of the hours they work on the clothes.  On one dress alone, she worked a total of 92 hours.

     “For some of these little girls, it may be the one nice thing they’ll ever receive at Christmas,” she said, “and I want to make it just as special as I can make it.  I like to think that some little girl will wake up and find that doll at Christmas, and it will make her life different.

     Parents who need them receive vouchers for the dolls and other toys, one for each of their children.  When the toy store opens on designated days, the parents take the vouchers to the store where they can look at and shop for the dolls.

     They can “buy” the doll of their choice in exchange for the voucher, just as if shopping and spending money at any other store.