AVONDALE, AZ — “You know, they say everybody has a story,” said Sheila Tucker.
Tucker is a Native American fashion designer living in Avondale. Sharing her culture and her story with each detail she stitches into her pieces. She grew up on the Yellowquill Reservation in Saskatchewan, Canada.
“I used to sit beside my grandma and she’d be up late beading and I’d be watching her,” said Tucker.
A member of the Ojibwe tribe, she’s always drawn inspiration from the heritage her grandmother so proudly wore. Her unique dresses and accessories have already graced the runway at Tempe Fashion Week and in February will be showcased in Paris. She’s now using her newly found notoriety to honor another important part of her life.
“When he was seventeen, he planned his escape,” said Tucker.
Sheila’s stepfather Hassan fled Iraq after Saddam Hussein ascended to power in 1979. A Kurdish refugee, he risked his life for the opportunity of something better.
“There was twenty of them that escaped from the Iraqi Army and they literally walked through the Kurdish mountains and by the time they got to Turkey, there was only a few of them left that survived, many passed away on the journey,” said Tucker.
Hassan would eventually end up in Canada, become a business owner, and start a family. His life now guiding his daughter's next steps. Sheila recently decided to raffle off two dresses showcased at Tempe Fashion Week to honor her stepfather's incredible journey to freedom. An effort intended to help others like him, get off to the right start.
“Refugees arrive with a single suitcase at best, sometimes just the clothes on their back, they’ve had to flee, they need to start over again,” said Mike Sullivan. “They may have left civil war, genocide, religious persecution.”
Sullivan is the agency director for the Welcome to America Project, an organization helping those like Hassan begin that fresh start on the best footing. Now partnering with Sheila to raffle off the dresses, every dollar will go to help provide the essential resources for those wanting to find peace and freedom in Arizona.
“This is something Sheila initiated, we didn’t ask, she just wanted to use her talents to raise funds so that we’d have the things that we need when the refugees arrive,” said Sullivan.
While only two people will walk away with her dresses, all take part in the hope for a better tomorrow with a small donation.
“You don’t know if that person is going to grow up and be your EMT that’s going to save your life or the police officer that’s going to respond to a call or a teacher that’s going to inspire your child,” said Sheila.