It’s all about soap, sewing and support of young moms

Michelle Taylor offers Betty Peake a whiff of one of her sweet hand creams. | Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – When Michelle Taylor first asked about participating as a vendor in the Fairfield Farmers and Artisans Market, it was because she had 70 dresses she’d made for a fundraiser – an event that had been canceled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

She needed a place to sell the dresses and still wanted to use the proceeds for the cause she’d made them to support: Young Lives, a mentoring program for teen moms that aims to help support them in their parenting journey.

“The whole meaning of Young Lives is to show these girls that they have worth, and they are loved by us, and they are loved by God. Their babies are not a mistake; he has a plan for all of us,” says Taylor, who’s been involved with the organization for several years.

“It’s a sweet, sweet gift to me simply being able to hang out with them and getting to know them and their babies.”

What began as a market booth with fundraiser dresses has evolved into a whole assortment of products, all of which Taylor says help her to continue her passion of supporting Young Lives, for which she also volunteers regularly.

It’s a lot, she says of her varied crafts – but it’s also fun.

And it kind of happened by accident. Once people saw that she was selling sewed crafts at the market, she says, the requests began to come in.

“Then it was like, ‘Can you make masks?’… and then it ended up with my friends calling, saying, ‘Remember those towels you made? Remember the burp cloths?’… and it’s just kind of grown from there and turned into soaps and lip gloss,” she says, with a laugh.

“I’ve made bibs for dogs. I’ve made scrub caps for different people that are in the medical field. Just kind of whatever – I’ll try it.”

Among the items she currently offers for sale during the weekly Saturday market: hair and body scrubs, soaps, body butter bars, lip balm, tea towels, “kitchen boa” towels (including a masculine version that includes a beer opener), burp cloths, custom embroidery, earrings, dried spices and spice grinders, candles – oh, and boiled peanuts.

“A lady come in wanting boiled peanuts, so I made her boiled peanuts,” Taylor says, describing the hours-long process. “I get all these special orders, and it just kind of grows off that.”

So much so that, oddly enough, she no longer has space in her market booth for the dresses – so they’re now for sale at The Artists Coop, a craft shop that’s around the corner from the market.

The money she earns selling her wares helps to support Young Lives, she says, contributing to the cost of things like week-long summer camps and weekend winter camps for teen moms and their babies, meals for group events, and special activities for the girls in the program.

Often, Taylor says, the challenges of single parenting mean the girls don’t have the financial means for a lot of extras – and providing some of those extras, such as a trip out to eat or to the nail salon, is ways that mentors are able to show love.

And the camps always make an impression, she says, from the rows of baby equipment (providing everything the girls need while they’re there) to the dedicated volunteers who work with the campers, big and small.

“People pay to volunteer their time there,” Taylor says. “They pay the regular camp fee, and they watch the babies.”

This year the typical summer camp was cancelled by the pandemic, she says, but the hope is that a kind of day camp can be held for three days in its place.

The rest of the year, she says, events are held for the moms and babies about three times a month, with one-on-one mentoring in between.

“We get to be silly with them,” she says, “They actually get to be teenagers as well as moms.”

In the last year, Taylor says, a lot of the interaction has been limited to Zoom, but the effort at mentoring and human connection has not let up. Locally, in the Northeast Columbia area, she says more than 100 girls and their babies have gone through the program since 2018.

And beyond the scheduled events, mentors – most of them moms themselves – remain on call as resources when the teen moms need advice.

“You get phone calls: ‘What do you think I should use for this?’ I’ve been sitting in church before and gotten pictures of rashes: ‘What do you think this is?’” Taylor says. “We kind of step in as grandmas.”

Visit Taylor’s booth at the Fairfield County Farmer’s and Artisans Market on Saturdays from 9 – noon.

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