Ask Amy: A volunteer seamstress wants to ask for a bigger donation

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Dear Amy: I make people happy, I volunteer in a non-profit organization that helps Afghan refugee women. We provide fabric and a space with sewing machines where they can come to work. Lately, these women are making items that they can sell.

Recently “Kara” contacted us and asked us to create a copy of a dress she had. She told me that if we figured out how to do that, we could let the Afghan women make them and sell them. She provided fabric for the copy.

I spent six hours figuring out how to make the item and documenting it with photos and instructions. I then made a sample. I used to be a professional seamstress, but I’m also soft to the touch. I never charge as much as the work is worth. In this case, I intended to ask Kara to donate to the association so that we could buy more fabric. A hundred dollars didn’t seem like a stretch.

In the end, Kara loved what I did and carried the sample out the door. I gave her instructions and the pattern pieces, and she gave me $20 to donate to charity. She also told me that she and a friend could make these dresses and sell them. (I told her that I thought the project would not work for Afghan women.)

After she left, I felt used, so I called her and told her she had to pay me for my time if she wanted to sell that dress pattern for a profit. However, now I feel guilty! I hate myself for calling her. Was I wrong to call her? Or am I wrong to feel guilty?

In the stitches: People often ask if they are “wrong” for feeling a certain way. And my answer is always the same: your feelings are your feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. They simply are. Your job is to let your feelings guide you to understanding and (eventually) change.

Your initial choices have prevented you and the organization you support from receiving justifiable compensation. I suggest that your chronic underpricing reflects your confidence in the value of your work more than your desire to please. “Kara” stepped out wearing a custom-made dress (along with the pattern and instructions) for $20.

If you don’t set your price and state it clearly before you do the work, then you’re leaving it up to the buyer to guess fair compensation – or nicely ripping you off. I give your choice to follow with Kara a “five star” rating. I hope you will take advantage of this episode to adjust your business model.

Dear Amy: Over the years, my brother and I stopped communicating. He is toxic, bossy and creates problems among family members. As a result, we brothers and sisters do not really communicate with him. We are all elders now – he being the eldest.

I guess I’ll outlive him because I’m the youngest. As I get older, I often wonder what I will do when it passes. Should I go to the funeral of a estranged brother if I have fond memories of our childhood relationship and still have a good relationship with his son? (He also has a daughter who has withdrawn from all family communication. No one knows why, but our niece’s silence happened long before we stopped communicating with our brother.)

I would like to do the right thing for my nephew by supporting him, but I also wouldn’t want to create problems within my brother’s family. Me and my other siblings and all of our children are all staying on good terms with family gatherings and communications. I think I’m the only one trying to keep in touch with my nephew.

Anticipating: Unless you strongly suspect your presence would make things more difficult for your brother’s family and other survivors, then yes, you should attend his funeral. Be discreet, express your condolences, and do your best to read the piece.

Dear Amy: I thought you were too easy answering the question of “Worriedthe waitress whose colleague smoked cigarettes and weed during her pregnancy. This is child abuse!

Upset: Although this is definitely unhealthy for mother and child, I stand by my advice to this colleague not to be judgmental and to try to influence this pregnant woman towards better choices.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by content agency Tribune.

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