Broken Arrow grandmother makes doll clothes, blankets for foster kids
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Friday, December 07, 2012
12/07/12 at 8:14 AM
The 1972 Sears sewing machine sat on a closet shelf for years until Arleeta Fulton heard a volunteer from the Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children speak about the plight of foster children.
She listened to how abused and neglected children arrive in foster care having only a diaper or the clothes on their backs for a wardrobe, without a toy or doll for comfort.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the house that day," she said.
After the presentation about seven years ago, Fulton saw a doll at a thrift store and had an idea.
She brought the doll home, gave it a bath and made it a dress. Then, she gave it away to a nonprofit dedicated to helping foster children.
That donation has grown into a project giving away at least 50 dolls a year and stacks of homemade blankets to abused and neglected children in Tulsa County.
"When I think of all my little grandkids, they are so loved and cared for and have everything they need and most everything they want," she said. "I think of how I loved and cared for my children as they grew up; well, I hope these kids will enjoy it.
"I know it's not perfect, but I do the best I can."
Fulton, 85, is humble about her abilities.
At September's Tulsa State Fair, she won the blue-ribbon, grand prize, best in show award for a handmade doll outfit, along with winning seven other ribbons for sewing and embroidery work.
Year-round, Fulton collects used dolls from garage sales and thrift stores, and friends donate material.
She creates her own patterns for the outfits, with some containing intricacies of embroidery and lace. All the dolls get underwear, too.
"These are like my children," she said. "When I was a little girl, I had one doll, and I treasured that doll. I remember my mother making her a dress and a blanket, and that stayed with me. To me, doing this is relaxation and sometimes I'll be working on a doll and think about what little girl is going to get this."
Last year, Fulton was told that every child leaving the shelter for a foster home is given a blanket.
So, she took the scraps of materials, started cross-stitching and embroidering quilt squares, and patched together unique blankets.
"I had the fabric and I love doing this, so I just started sewing them," she said.
Her Broken Arrow home has two rooms filled with dolls and sewing material. Her 90-year-old husband, Bob, is usually busy woodworking and has given away Christmas ornaments.
Fulton's donations are not about cleaning out closets or giving second-hand items.
Because of the high quality of her work, she has been asked by some people to sell her dolls and blankets.
Fulton refuses to take pay or make an item for sale.
"I don't want it to be a job," she said. "I just want to do something for those little kids. I'd rather give them away."
Julie Gustafson, past president of the Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children, said Fulton's items are big hits with the children.
"When I first came out to her house, I couldn't believe it," Gustafson said. "It was like being in Santa's workshop. Bob and Arleeta are so giving and open. When I come out here, I feel like I've had Christmas."
Fulton's donations go the Foster Care Resource Center, which is a nonprofit providing assistance to Tulsa County foster parents having difficulty paying for all the needs of the abused and neglected children they take into their homes.
Supporting the nonprofit is the Tulsa Advocates for the Protection of Children, which also supports the Laura Dester emergency shelter.
Foster children have been asked to give a list of three things they want this holiday season.
"We try to make sure they get those," Gustafson said. "We've heard foster parents tell us that they wanted to get a doll for their child this year but couldn't afford it. So, this is a big help."
Foster Care Resource Center
Collection for toys and other gift items for Tulsa County foster children is being held at the former Border's Books at 2740 E. 21st St. Items are being accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The nonprofit serves children from newborns through teenagers who live in Tulsa County.
For more information, call 918-742-4947
Original Print Headline: Woman sews her love
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Arleeta Fulton, 85, a doll fashion designer, sews clothing for a doll at her Broken Arrow home on Thursday. She donates the dolls to children in need. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Eighty-five-year-old Arleeta Fulton, a doll fashion designer, sits with several of the dolls she's fashioned. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World
Arleeta Fulton, a doll fashion designer, loads boxes of her dolls for needy children with the help of her husband, Bob Fulton, in their Broken Arrow home on Thursday. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World