VAUCLUSE — Vaucluse resident Anna Pearl Lott, 88, hasn't let her age stop her a bit in a mission to help others.

She is the focal point of a family initiative that has sent hundreds of dresses to Africa over the past month to benefit girls in need.

Lott's son, Larry, said their involvement with the mission Little Dresses for Africa began last October after the family viewed the mission's website. A minister from Minnesota explained that in Malawi, kids could not go to school unless they had proper clothing, making it exponentially harder for girls to get an education.

Larry presented the idea to his mother so she would have a hobby to pick up. But over time, the mission really became more of a movement that has garnered incredible success.

“You can fit 22 dresses in one of those flat rate boxes, so we put them in there and try to put in different sizes,” he explained. “We have a really good system worked out here.”

Lott said the family works together to supply the fabric, buttons, zippers, ribbons, sewing machines, bobbins and any other necessities.

Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren all help sew and start the hemming process. Then, they take a step back and let the woman they affectionately call “Nanny” go to work.

Lott's work with cloth dates back more than 70 years to when she worked for Vaucluse Mill during its prime production period. She worked at the mill from 1943 to 1991, a 48-year stretch.

That experience, she said, has really helped her in her work and is the main reason why she is able to man the sewing machines and lead the charge in her family's mission.

“The dresses have to be different sizes so there can be some for all the girls,” she said. “My family goes to a lot of thrift shops so they can get the material for a good price.”

Lott added that the price of the material has increased over the years. Still, the family manages to pull their resources together and get the necessary items to continue their mission work.

“I think it's a good mission, and they go to help people who really need them,” she said. “I would encourage anyone looking for mission work to read about it and become a part of it.”

Little Dresses for Africa was founded by Minister Rachel O'Neill in 2008 and is a registered nonprofit, Christian organization.

According to, its mission is to provide relief to children throughout the continent of Africa and beyond. Volunteers from all 50 states and several other countries join together to make little dresses out of pillow cases or other simple patterns.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.