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Guelph COVID-19 Surgical Cap Sewists do their thing to help frontline workers

'We have one lady who is 92 and making masks for us. And she's blind'

The Guelph COVID-19 Surgical Cap Sewists group continues to help meet the increasing demand for personal protection equipment. 

Now, with a new order issued by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health that requires anyone entering a commercial establishment to wear a face covering as of Friday, the need will continue to surge.

Since March, the local Facebook group meets virtually and today has over 416 members from six different countries who continue to make masks, scrub caps, ear savers and gowns.

“Two months ago, I offered to help find a few volunteers to make surgical scrub caps for the Guelph General emergency room doctors and then this project grew to take on a life of its own,” says Jennifer Cameron, volunteer co-ordinator at the Guelph COVID-19 Surgical Caps Sewists. 

“After hearing from about 50 people, I thought, we need to get our own group going. One member refined the pattern, wrote the instructions and shot a video of how to sew it.”

“We now have members from across Canada, U.S., Mexico, U.K., France and Norway. They come to our page because the patterns we share, are free.”

But with increased demand, comes a need for more volunteers and more supplies. 

“All of our supplies have been donated and we do not charge a fee for any of our items,” Cameron said. 

“As more programs, services and businesses open, more supplies are needed, and requests continue to come in daily. I have had requests from community nursing agencies, doctor’s offices and day care centres. The need for help continues to grow.”

Cameron is grateful to all of the members who continue to come together to help in any way they can during the pandemic.

“Some of our volunteers are getting tired and others have been called back to work. We really need more volunteers to help us out. Many have been sewing non-stop since the end of March. We need more volunteers to help cut out pattern pieces and sewers to help get us through the next few weeks as more places open up.”

Locally, the sewists group has made 1,200 scrub caps for Guelph General Hospital and hundreds of masks and ear savers. 

The group has also provided support to Norfolk Manor and has produced 300 scrub caps for Guelph Wellington Paramedics, ear savers, scrub caps and gowns for Riverside Glen, masks and gowns for Arbour Trails, 100 masks for The Bench, 100 masks for Chalmers Community Services, gowns and ear savers for Morriston Park Nursing Home, gowns and caps for Carizon Children’s Mental Health, both emergency childcare centres in Guelph and gowns and masks for Stone Lodge and Wyndham House. 

“We’ve even delivered ear savers to workers at Tim Hortons. Masks can really hurt your ears and we wanted to show our support for the workers.”

The Guelph COVID-19 Surgical Cap Sewists are always in need of more supplies. 

“So far, when I’ve asked for help, it has arrived. It’s amazing how it always comes together. I needed thread, which is really hard to find right now, and it came. There was a maker in New York who needed buttons but she couldn’t find any. Someone from the group helped her connect with other makers to get them. By the end of today, I will have 10 garbage bags full of sheets and we use every tiny piece. There will be no ghosts this Halloween because there will not be any sheets left,” Cameron jokes.

“We’ve raided a lot of quilting stashes and with each one, there’s a story.”

And with every mask made, there is also another story to share.

“It’s amazing and overwhelming. We have people from all walks of life wanting to help. We have one lady who is 92 and making masks for us. And she’s blind. And there’s another who is 82. She says she can’t sew fast, but she’s doing it. And then we have others who have never sewn before,” Cameron said. 

But more volunteers are needed.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. The need is growing. We’ve heard from nursing agencies who need gowns to provide care for patients and emergency day care and doctor’s offices. And with day cares opening, we just can’t work that fast. We need volunteers,” Cameron says. 

“If you can cut or sew, we can split these jobs up.”

For those wanting to donate supplies, items in need include, ¾ inch diameter buttons, cotton or cotton polyester blend fabric, thread, quarter-inch elastic and seam binding and ribbed knit fabrics to make cuffs on gowns. 

“It’s pretty amazing. I’m just putting things together, but it’s those who cut, sew and deliver,” Cameron says. 

“It’s their dedication that makes this all happen. Some apologize because they are tired or they have been called back to work.  But they have all come because they are so willing to help.”

To donate or to volunteer, contact the Guelph Covid19 Surgical Cap Sewists on Facebook.