A Good News Story to Share

Sewing machines and knitting needles have been working overtime in Elmvale, Ontario. The members of the church’s Women’s Missionary Society and the Elmvale Craft Group have been working faithfully during this pandemic to create hundreds of much-needed items for their local hospital, for those experiencing homelessness, and for many others whose lives have been affected dramatically in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Honduras these last few months.

There are so many wonderful projects to tell you about.

Let’s start with scrub caps…

As you know personal protective clothing has been much needed these days by those who are serving on the front lines in our hospitals and nursing homes. As Cathy Finlay tells the story, it all began when the Not-So-Perfect Quilters group in neighbouring Port McNichol received a request from the emergency department of the Georgian Bay General Hospital.

“Could the quilters possibly sew scrub caps for the emergency department team?” They hoped for five scrub caps per team member.

With a resounding “Yes” the women got right to work. They pulled our their fabric stashes and started sewing.

As the scrub caps began to pile up, the hospital’s dream got bigger. “Could they expand the goal and make enough caps for all of the ICU staff?”

If the women were able to make two scrub caps for every staff member (one at work and one at home in the wash), it would mean they would need to sew 1000 scrub caps in total.

“Was it possible?”

It was a big mountain to climb. They would try their best.

A friend of the group in Elmvale heard about their project and asked to join the team and assist them in reaching their goal. Soon, the sewing machines of Elmvale Presbyterian Church joined the machines of Port McNichol and together they hummed well into the night.

The collaboration between the Not-So-Perfect Quilters and the Craft Group of Elmvale meant the goal of 1000 scrub caps was reached in only four weeks … with three caps spare!

Keeping the sewing machines of Elmvale and Port McNichol busy was Cindy, Simone, Mary, Mary Jean, Deb, Pauline, Anne, Lila, Lois, Cheryl, Kathy, Marg and Cathy. This group of women rose to the challenge and met a need they were available and gifted to do.

Congratulations everyone!

With everyone’s fabric stashes now depleted the women say they are dreaming of their next visit to their favourite fabric stores when they are once again able to get out.

And then, hygiene bags

But, scrub caps is not the only specialty item the women have been sewing. Hygiene bags were also needed. The Status of Women Committee of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation have been committed to purchasing and distributing hygiene bags to women and men experiencing homelessness in Simcoe County for a number of years. While the committee is committed to buying feminine hygiene products, hairbrushes, water bottles, coffee cups, and gloves for people who desperately need these items, they imagined a more pleasing way than a zip lock baggie to package them up for those who would receive them. The federation did not want to cause any embarrassment for their recipients when they these items were given to them on a public street or in a shelter.

This is where the women of Elmvale stepped in. They have been sewing hundreds of cloth storage bags, decorating them with hand painted affirming messages of love and care, and gifting them to the teacher’s federation to use. Now these personal items are well hidden from public view, and the recipients go on to reuse their treasured, handmade bags for other purposes when the contents are used up.

When not making bags for Simcoe County, Anne has also completed hundreds of similar bags for a local mission focusing on care for those experiencing homelessness, ARISE Ministry in East Toronto Presbytery, and for a local nursing school’s health clinic in the Dominican Republic. She has also recently expanded her sewing to make scrub caps and gowns for a local group of midwives.

Babies, and bears, and cherry pie!

It doesn’t stop there. These ladies ‘unintentional stay-cation’ has extended to other crafting projects.

Janice is one of the knitters of the group. She has been knitting non-stop, making baby blankets, sweater sets and preemie hats for the Georgian Bay General Hospital, as well as mothers in the Dominican Republic and Honduras.

Sandy also knits baby blankets, hats and dish clothes and sews chemo caps that are distributed locally.

Sandra is the third knitter, making mitts and hats and sewing velveteen bears for those experiencing homelessness in the area.

When Mary goes to the church each week to make sure everything is okay for the building’s insurance, she also spends some time keeping up with the women’s milk bag mat project, weaving strips of plastic into sleeping mats for Milk Bags Unlimited. The plastic scraps are even used to stuff pillows to accompany the mats as they as distributed to Canadian and international locations experiencing disaster and/or homelessness.

The final story Cathy Finlay relayed to me doesn’t include knitting, sewing, or even weaving. An unusual request came to the church from Greg, who was working in Honduras when the pandemic hit. Knowing he would have to self-isolate for two weeks upon his return to Canada, Greg hoped for something to make it all worthwhile. He had only request of his church. Could someone bake him a cherry pie?

Gwen was the lady for the task. Greg made it through having to pick up his life in Honduras on short notice, get himself to the airport, watch his flights being cancelled and rebooking, and managing to balance each new restriction that was put in place along the way because he knew that when he got home there would be a cherry pie.

Welcome home Greg, and thank you Gwen, and thank you to all of the Elmvale knitters, crafters and sewists who have cared so generously for all of their neighbours, both near and far, during this pandemic. Thanks be to God!

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