Fort Worth

Girl sews stuffed toys for homeless children, passes them out on Christmas Eve

Keller girl makes, gives away toys to homeless children

Stella Austin, a 9-year-old sewing enthusiast from Keller, sewed and stuffed toy kittens and gave them to children at the Salvation Army homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. Her first idea was more ambitious.
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Stella Austin, a 9-year-old sewing enthusiast from Keller, sewed and stuffed toy kittens and gave them to children at the Salvation Army homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. Her first idea was more ambitious.

Wearing a Santa hat, Keller 9-year-old Stella Austin pulled a toy wagon loaded with 40 of her creations — stuffed kittens that she sews — around a cafeteria at the Salvation Army family homeless shelter on Christmas Eve.

With the help of her younger sister Rose, she handed out the toys to children who are staying at the homeless shelter this Christmas.

The kids, especially the youngest ones, couldn’t seem to put the stuffed kittens down.

“She, did she sew this?” one child asked a parent, who replied, “Yep.”

Stella’s mother, Shannon Austin, says Stella came up with the idea on her own but originally wanted to do more — much more.

“I think she had a bigger vision of making a stuffed kitten for all the kids in the world, and I helped her come to the idea of helping out people in our area,” Shannon Austin said Monday morning.

“It makes me feel so proud,” she said. “That’s the main thing I want to instill in my kids, which is kindness.”

When Stella saw the reactions of the children and watched them playing with her stuffed kittens, “it made me feel happy inside,” she said.

A third-grader at Heritage Elementary, Stella has donated more than 100 stuffed animals so far, with 70 others going to hospitalized children. Her family, which also includes older brother Aiden, pitches in on the toys, their mother said.

“Shannon told me (Stella) had this idea,” said Stella’s father, Cornelius Austin. “She doesn’t like to see people suffering.”

Stella started sewing last Christmas when she got a new sewing machine, which she also hauled in her wagon on Monday, and she says the best thing about her favorite hobby is that it’s fun.

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Stella Austin, right, and younger sister Rose get ready to give out homemade toys to homeless children on Christmas Eve. Stephen English senglish@star-telegram.com

Shannon said Stella has created outfits for herself on her sewing machine and added, “You never know what’s next with this one.”

Frank Calvert, a 14-year disaster volunteer for the Salvation Army, said the event was a great chance for the families to get together.

“Maybe she’ll inspire some of these kids to see what they can do for others,” he said of Stella.

Pam Percival, a Salvation Army volunteer, said the family shelter at 1855 E. Lancaster Ave. always needs donations and is open 24 hours a day, every day.

Besides toys, an in-demand item is a twin-sized “bed-in-a-bag” set including a set of sheets and a comforter. Children are given these when they arrive at the shelter.

Lockheed Martin workers raised $182,000 for several Fort Worth area charities, and on Tuesday gave away more than 120 bikes during a holiday parade at the fighter jet plant.

Stephen English covers breaking news for the Star-Telegram. He attended Texas Wesleyan University and has lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for more than 30 years.
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