OGDEN -- When nine women showed off their creations Wednesday, it was apparent that their efforts had created in them a new sense of self.
The women all expressed deep gratitude as they graduated from a free 10-week sewing course at Give Me a Chance.
At the Give Me a Chance shop, 2620 Washington Blvd., Sister Maria Nguyen both teaches classes and sells the wares that come from the effort to support the courses.
The ceremony marked the one-year anniversary of the effort started by Nguyen to give a hand-up to women with low incomes. The course is designed to show participants how they can take a skill and start their own business.
In an interview, student Stephanie Wade talked about how the basis for her former industrial cleaning business literally moved away with the downed economy. She said now her knowledge is helping her start a business with a fellow student.
"Sister Maria was telling us we needed a business plan," Wade said. "She wants us to do some samples. ... She was telling me I could get a grant."
Nguyen, a member of the Daughters of Charity Province of the West, came to Ogden from California two years ago with little else than a vision of doing something here to serve immigrants.
"She really wanted to help women get the skills they needed to be entrepreneurs," said Sister Betty Marie Dunkel, a social ministries counselor with Nguyen's Catholic order. She was visiting from the province's headquarters in Los Altos Hills, Calif.
"When she talked about her dream in 2009, it seemed like an insurmountable task," said Marcie Valdez, director of Catholic Services of Northern Utah. "I feel like it's with the graces of God and the determination of Sister Maria that we are here today."
Several in attendance talked about how Nguyen didn't take no for an answer as she gathered a host of volunteers and donations. The building she secured is a former tattoo parlor. Since its start, nearly three dozen women have graduated from her program.
Currently, Nguyen is hoping for $25,000 in donations to allow her to add industrial quilting and embroidery machines to expand to another level the services the program offers the community.
"She has a lot of ideas," Dunkel said. "This place is pretty much proof that she can make her ideas come true."
Nguyen also is looking to start a class of English as a second language there.
"A lot of the ladies who come in here are too shy to go elsewhere for it," said Mary Adams, past director of the San Francisco province of the National Council of Catholic Women.
Adams was at the ceremony to present Nguyen with a check for $550 from the Utah Diocese and Council of Catholic Women.
"It's our way of giving Give Me a Chance a chance," she said.
For information about taking one of Nguyen's classes, visit Give Me a Chance or call 801-393-0100.