Mama mender: Volunteer 'mom' changing lives with each stitch at Houston shelter

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Foti Kallergis shows how a volunteer "mom" is changing lives at the Open Door Mission. (KTRK)

A Houston grandmother is helping to heal through her mending skills on the sewing machine.

Barbara Wilson started volunteering three years ago at the Open Door Mission near downtown Houston. She put her sewing skills to the test, helping the men at the addiction recovery shelter with basic alterations to donated clothes.

"I am a mender. I'm a mama mender," said Wilson, 69.

Wilson spends most of her Saturdays at the mission measuring pants, jackets and shirts to fit just right on each resident. She said she wants them to look their best.

"I have seen people who looked like they were a beat puppy," said Wilson. "Some of the family have pretty much washed their hands of these folks."

With each garment complete, Wilson gives them a smile, sometimes a hug. She also sews in something extra: the words to mend not just the outside but the inside, too.

"I tell every one of them, every time I'm here that I love them. And some of them look at me like 'excuse me?' Other ones break into a big smile and hug me up," said Wilson.

Over the years, her love has melted the hard shells in them all. She's known at the mission as "Mom."

"I did not know there are people out there that care for people like us," said resident Adam Rodriguez.

At graduation from the substance abuse rehab program, Wilson is there with her needle and thread, ready to make any last minute or emergency adjustments. She realizes they've done something for her too.

"They have mended me. I didn't realize that I had as many cracks as I have," said Wilson.

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