Angel Gowns:‘It’s just something that comes from the heart.’

By Shelby Stewart
Staff Writer
Since high school, Joanne Vivian has been sewing.
“When I was pregnant with my daughters, I sewed their pajamas and I sewed my maternity tops, I made all my granddaughters quilts,” said Vivian. “And my one daughter, after she got married, she gave me her wedding gown, so I started making Angel Gowns.”
Angel Gowns are a type of white dress or outfit for stillborn babies or babies that died in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Their purpose is to dress the baby in for final photos and burial and provide comfort to the family, and they’re made out of donated wedding gowns.
“I always say they’re sewn with love,” she said. “I’m 82, and it’s getting harder and harder to thread a needle, but I can still do it. I just like helping people, I think I just like to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Vivian recently donated a few angel gowns to the NICU at Ascension Genesys Hospital, and helped out at Reid Elementary’s Day of Difference to sew bonding hearts that also went to the NICU. Her granddaughter, Ashlee Mahaffy, is the librarian.
“The hearts are for the NICU, the mother puts the heart close to her body, and when she leaves, she puts it in the crib with the baby and it smells like her,” she said.
While at Reid, she had given the Angel Gowns to her granddaughter to take to the hospital as well.
“It’s sad that they can use them, but it makes me happy that I can help them,” she said.
“I’ve made 21 so far. I just enjoy it, they’re so easy.”
She said while she hopes to find a group of women to sew with, her sewing room is her happy place, and she’ll gladly continue by herself.
“I like to keep busy sewing, I used to do a lot of embroidery work,” she said. “It’s just something that comes from the heart.”

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