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Volunteer opportunity spotlight: The many virtues of skirting

Ann Testa, farm projects assistant, skirting fiber at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

April is National Volunteer Month. Follow along each week for the month as we highlight some of the opportunities the Sisters of Providence have available.

I’m not exactly sure how it got the name, but cleaning alpaca fiber is called skirting and not as I originally thought something to do with square dancing. Skirting is just one of the many volunteer opportunities that we have available with the Sisters of Providence. At first glance it may not seem like the most desirable of opportunity, but for the right person this could be a perfect fit. If you’ve made the decision to volunteer why not see if this unique job is right for you. Here are just a few things you may not know:

You can sit down while you skirt.

If you want to help but can’t be up on your feet too long, skirting is something that can be done sitting down. The alpaca fiber is put on a special table at the White Violet Center. There are stools available so by all means take a seat if you like. We don’t mind.

You’ll be part of a winning team.

Well maybe not an award winning team but a pretty special group nonetheless. Each spring our alpacas are sheared. The fleece is sent off to the mill to be spun into yarn. This yarn is then sold or used to make other products that we will sell. (You can see our merchandise at LindenLeafGifts.com) But before it gets shipped off it needs to be cleaned of grass and other debris. The cleaner our fleece, the less waste there is at the mill. We have often been told that our fleece arrives in such great condition. That’s because of the wonderful team of staff and volunteers who diligently take on this task each year.


“Skirting is flexible. It can be a party and a very social gathering getting to know new friends around a pile of lusciously soft fiber.  Or it can be contemplative; fingers in the fiber, inhaling that sweet barnyardy smell just thinking about life and stuff.”

~Ann Testa, farm projects assistant

You’ll find time to solve the riddles of the universe.

Sometimes we all just need to slow down and take time to think. Skirting is the perfect undertaking to keep your hands busy while giving your mind a much needed chance to think, pray, meditate, or just relax. It can also be a really good de-stressor. It’s also a really great task for introverts.

You can make a party out of it.

If you don’t want to slow down but would rather connect with others, you can use skirting as a way to give back and spend time with your friends and/or  family. Grab a group and sit around the table. Put on some tunes, share stories, catch up and just enjoy each other’s company. We love to hear the sound of laughter coming from the skirting room.

Your IQ is not important.

That’s right. It’s not rocket science to clean alpaca fiber. You’ll be given a tutorial to get you started but you can’t really mess it up. So exhale and start skirting.

All the cool kids are doing it.

I mean maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but how cool will it be to tell people you are a “skirter” of alpaca fiber.  I mean it sounds fantastic. They probably won’t know what it is, so it could make a great icebreaker. Plus you get to hang out at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice which is an amazing place and so very near the alpaca pasture.

Skirting is a great and unique way to give back. If you are interested volunteering please contact Sister Rebecca Keller, our Sisters of Providence Volunteer Coordinator and she will find the perfect fit for you. Email her at rkeller@spsmw.org or call her at 812-535-2878.

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Mary Riley

Mary Riley is the marketing manager for some ministries of the Sisters of Providence including White Violet Center for Eco-Justice and the Volunteer Services.

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