MERIDEN — City resident Claire Forcier is giving back during the holiday season by restoring old, damaged dolls for local girls in need.
Forcier started the project in 2018 when she saw a post online offering a free box of dolls that needed repair. She decided to restore the dolls and donate them to Benjamin Franklin School. Now, the project will extend to all public schools.
“It wasn’t anything I intended to get into. It just happened and I guess it was meant to be,” Forcier said.
The dolls are sometimes dirty and damaged, with little or no clothing. She cleans and repairs them, irons the clothes and brushes and styles the hair.
To completely restore a single doll takes an average of three to four hours. The brushing, de-tangling and straightening of the hair alone takes an hour to complete.
“It's quite the project. We started last year in November, this year I started in August,” Forcier said.
Last year, she was able to restore and donate 50 dolls to Benjamin Franklin that were given to girls at Christmas.
School Social Worker Amy Frederick, with the help of teachers, determines which girls might be in need of a doll and contacts parents.
“We know families that can use a little extra help during the holidays,” Frederick said. “...(Forcier) reached out to us. We’re just very lucky that she did.”
Frederick said the teachers do their best to match the dolls to fit the girls’ hair, style, and interests so that they can have a ‘little sister.’ Several restored dolls have a focus on careers or hobbies.
“She is so talented, they come looking so beautiful and I’ve seen the before and after,” Frederick said.
Forcier received a doll with a detached arm, which she wasn’t able to fix, and instead put the arm in a sling, dressed the doll in horse riding clothes and gave it the back story that she had broken her arm after falling off a horse. The doll will be matched with a girl who has a disability.
Forcier has collected close to 40 dolls this year through her Facebook page – Claire Forcier. The dolls will be distributed as needed to the public schools and the Boys and Girls Club.
“I can’t foresee why I’d ever stop doing it,” she said. “There will always be girls in need,”