The sewing volunteers whose amazing efforts solved NHS's scrubs shortage
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Sewers of all abilities have put their skills to good use - supporting the NHS and key workers when they needed it most.
The Norfolk Scrubs Volunteers group responded to the gaping shortage of scrubs during the early stages of Covid-19.
Inspired by nurse Ashleigh Linsdell who created a national Facebook group called For the Love of Scrubs, a similar project was set up in Norfolk, originally called Norfolk Makers for NHS.
The Norfolk Scrubs Volunteers was subsequently co-founded by Gillian Francis and Julia Wheeler on March 30, 2020.
These two have then been joined by Emma Bradley, Claire Wyatt and Diana Cripps as the five coordinators for the project.
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Ms Wheeler who works as full-time family carer said: "The number of people who wanted to join and help was astonishing.
"I have been sewing since I was a child, but when it really kicked off, we were so busy organising it that I did not have time to sew myself."
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The Norfolk group continue to support a wide-ranging number of health services, schools, businesses and charities with face masks, scrubs, hats and other requested items.
Volunteers will continue to sew items on demand with the name Norfolk Sewers Volunteers being adopted as the new title for the group in 2021.
The project was recognised as the winner of the Team/Community Group category at the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards 2020.
Among those who have contributed is Taverham resident Margaret Mace, 71. Her cruise was cut short by the start of the pandemic, meaning an early return home.
She said: "After I was repatriated home, I had to isolate for two weeks and saw this group on Facebook. I thought I could do that - I have been sewing since the age of six.
"I started off making laundry bags from unused bedding I had in the family."
A coordinator collects any items created on a weekly basis and delivers them to those in need across the county.
Not only have the volunteers been helping others, many of them have also found it helped with their own wellbeing during lockdown.
Ms Mace added: "To do something that is making everyone's lives easier, and not just sitting around moping is great. We are all still here. If there is a need then we will do it."
Another volunteer is Bodham resident and web designer, Melanie Clarke, 62, who said her garage has resembled a factory given how much material has been donated for the cause.
She has made 140 sets of scrubs so far, and has noticed an increase in vaccination teams requesting PPE at this time.
Among those she has supported are frontline workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Royal Papworth and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Having been forced to self-isolate due to her Type 1 diabetes, Mrs Clarke was determined to use the time to help others.
Mrs Clarke, who is a former military driver, said: "Something like this starts up and you see that there are actually hundreds of people who just want to help."
The group's Facebook page has been integral to the project when requesting items to be made.
Mrs Clarke added: "It's just a case of do what you can do. I keep some of the face masks for people in the village and they get sent out to care homes as well. It's about routine and getting into the swing of it."
Norwich resident Pauline Brown is the project coordinator for face masks who collects the finished items, before boxing them up for delivery.
She also sews herself and has recently helped deliver 120 face masks to the three Compass schools in Belton, Lingwood and Pott Row.
"I get a lot of pleasure out of it and I think it will go on for some time yet," she said.
There are specific requirements for the workwear materials being received by the health service. In these circumstances, the materials are sent to the volunteers' addresses if they do not already have them.
Retired social worker Marilyn Hoxley, who lives in Norwich, said volunteers are not pressurised into making a certain amount of PPE.
She said: "I just think it is a brilliant example of how people can come together and that everyone can contribute.
"There is so much support regardless of whether you are making lots and lots or only a small thing."
To contact the group, visit www.norfolkscrubsvolunteers.org/