Wisconsin woman helps refugees, natural disaster survivors improve their lives with free sewing machines

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Victims of natural and man-made disasters often find themselves hanging by a thread for survival. A Wisconsin woman works to help survivors rebuild their lives by mending both the physical and mental wounds of loss.

For craftsmen like Earnestine Smith and Trish Henderson, the soul feeds on needle and thread, but the tools that made them so happy were lost in Hurricane Harvey.

That’s when Margaret Jankowski came to Houston and handed out 125 brand new sewing machines in a parking lot.

Jankowski started the Sewing Machine Project, which currently distributes more than 3,600 new and used sewing machines and helps survivors of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and refugees from Afghanistan and Somalia.

“It helps you economically, physically and mentally,” Henderson told CBS News.

It can be an income tool for beginners.

“This is really my passion,” Jankowski told CBS News. “The fact that I can collect them relatively easily and share them with people who make such a difference is life changing for them and life changing for me.”