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A Stitch in a Time of COVID

The old adage says “a stitch in time saves nine”, which means if you sort out a problem immediately, it will save you time and effort later. When several seamstresses stepped up to stitch gowns and masks for Communitas, they not only saved time and effort, they potentially saved lives.

Masks and gowns may be used by Residential Support Workers during this time of pandemic in order to keep people safe. Because of COVID-19, these resources became harder to acquire. So Communitas staff did some research into finding suitable patterns and put out a call for volunteers to help.

Tamara’s sewing space overlooks her garden. Tamara Harder offers a quote by Saul Bellow that speaks to how she feels when she is sewing: “I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction”.

Tamara Harder, who serves as the children’s respite coordinator for Communitas, has been sewing since she was a child and has been coordinating Communitas’ efforts. She was happy to be able to help and has been encouraged by the response from community.

“The fun part of this project is the community involvement,” she says. “People are so generous with their time, their talent and their perseverance. ‘Sewists’ rock!”

Tamara looked at a number of mask patterns online and slightly adapted one that she found on a site that had patterns for those looking to sew for medical staff. The mask has a pipe cleaner nose piece so that it can be fitted easily and also has a pocket for a filter.

“I changed the pattern a bit so that there is a different fabric on the front and back, which makes it easier to know which side has been next to the wearer’s face if they happen to take it off,” she explains.

“Many hands (this is Ida’s hand) make light work!”

Others who volunteered to help include other Communitas staff, their family members, and friends. They all enjoy sewing and are grateful for the opportunity to use their skills in the service of others. One of these volunteers, Gill, says that sewing has given her something to focus on. She also has a personal connection to Communitas.

“I’m thankful to have the work to keep my hands and mind busy. It has helped me not become overwhelmed by these extraordinary times,” she says. “I also have a family member who lives in one of Communitas’ homes. It has been an amazing and life-changing resource.”

Erna, whose husband Arny serves as one of Communitas’ maintenance men, has been sewing gowns. She says the opportunity was literally an answer to prayer.

“I was praying and wondering what I could do to help during this crisis,” she says. “That day, Arny texted me and asked if I would like to sew some gowns!”

Others have contributed to this project by donating materials. Elaine Moore is a program director at Communitas. Her friend Audrey loved sewing and had a fully-stocked sewing room. When Audrey passed away, her sister gathered up these things as a way to remember her.

These masks were made with fabric donated by Audrey’s sister.

“When I asked if she would be willing to donate Audrey’s fabric to be used as masks she jumped at the opportunity,” Elaine says. “Audrey lived her life by the tag line: ‘Blessed on Purpose’ and it’s wonderful to see her legacy blessing others today.”

A similar donation was made by Neil Jeffries who donated fabric from his late partner’s sewing collection. Neil receives support through Supported Independent Living and was happy to have the opportunity to support Communitas in this unique way.

The fact that the masks and gowns will be used by front-line staff is a source of motivation for all those who have stepped up to help. Those receiving these resources are grateful for them and also for the people who have taken the time to create them. Gillian Viljoen, chief program officer for Communitas, says these resources communicate a powerful message.

“The fun, colourful masks and gowns not only bring a source of comfort and safety for our staff and supported individuals, but they also reflect the creativity and enthusiasm of a team of people who are sharing their gift with us during a time of need.”

Thank you to: Ev Balzer, Diane Bieber, Shelley Fritzke, Erna Froese, Gill Fry, Barb Glen,Tamara Harder, Anna McCausland, Wanda Nickel, Justina Penner, Lorna Rannie, Ida Shartner, Edith, Nella, and Veronica Silva, Elaine Moore, Audrey’s sister, and Neil Jeffries.

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