MUNCIE -- On a hot Tuesday morning in early July, women and children gathered amid tables of clothing and folded fabric in a cool church basement.

The occasion was a sewing circle meeting for women whose families have moved to Muncie in the past year or so after fleeing Afghanistan — but in reality this gathering was more than just that.

The Afghan Ladies Sewing Circle began around the start of 2022, meeting weekly (or, across the summer, monthly), initially providing about 15-20 women who were adjusting to life in their new home with sewing supplies — including a donated sewing machine for each household — and a chance to socialize. Nancy Carlson, chairman of the sewing circle, noted that many of the women are isolated at home much of the time and might not speak much English, so the chance to gather with others who share a common language, as well as with friendly volunteers, is a welcome opportunity.

During the summer break from school, teenage girls were invited to join the circle. Smaller children played nearby or joined in a game of Candyland on this July morning. Rather than sewing during this meeting, women chatted as they sorted through donated clothing laid out on rows of tables, collecting bags of items that could be altered as needed.

The regular gathering of women is just one of many efforts coordinated through the Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee (MARRC), a volunteer effort established in 2021 to welcome Muncie's new neighbors from Afghanistan.

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