In light of the current COVID-19 situation, the COEDC is thankful to all the local groups that are going above and beyond in supporting the community. Thank you Sew the Curve for your leadership.

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A group of volunteers based in Kelowna have sewn and donated about 1,240 washable and reusable masks in about a month for frontline and essential workers between Lake Country and Summerland.

Laura MacDonald, a main organizer of the group Sew the Curve Kelowna, has been sewing for 62 years, and is now at the helm of nearly 140 members either contributing or interested in the cause. Some sewers are as young as 10 years old.

"I'm absolutely astounded by the number of people who want to help,” MacDonald said, noting that due to the constantly changing number of sewers and support workers, she isn’t sure how many are helping at any given time.

“[They say] ‘I don't sew, I'll do whatever you want me to do, doesn't matter if it's stapling labels or cutting wire, or crimping wire.’ Like that's pretty cool."

The Facebook group started on Apr. 3, with their first shipment of masks being sent out on Apr. 17 to workers deemed essential by the provincial government.

MacDonald said she had the idea to support workers through sewing masks in March, but couldn't find traction. When she finally found a way to help workers, she and other sewers began with supplies they had on hand.

Now, that demand has grown, they’ve been using only donated materials to support essential workers. So far, they have donated products to the Kelowna General Hospital, Home Depot, Safeway, gas stations and long-term care homes.

“The look of relief on their face is absolutely amazing because if nothing else it gives them a sense of safety,” MacDonald said about some gas station clerks that received masks.

While workers like nurses and paramedics receiving donations can’t wear the masks during work hours because they aren’t mandated products, she says they appreciate them as “after-hours” masks.

“This is a very uncertain time for everyone, and if we can help in any little way like that then, you know, mission accomplished,” she added.

But, it hasn’t been an easy endeavour. With fluctuating numbers of members able to help out, and provincial health orders restricting gatherings, MacDonald has had to improvise.

"This COVID thing has made it very difficult for volunteer associations because normally we can have a sewing day where we could all get together,” MacDonald explained. “But we can't do that because of the social distancing ... logistically it doesn't work."

She and other administrators of the group have had to assign tasks to different interested members, including sewing, cutting fabric, cutting nose wire and making labels. They’ve also started making scrub caps and plan to begin making scrub bags.

But, MacDonald stipulates that despite requests, products are being reserved for frontline and essential workers, and no masks are being sold to the public.

"We are producing more product — more masks and scrub caps and then, down the road, scrub bags — for the people who are essential and frontline workers,” she said.

"We'd love to be able to cover everybody up, but our primary goal is to cover up the frontline workers and essential workers.”

A similar mask-making group has also been sewing products in Kamloops, but is not directly related to the Kelowna club — only in their shared cause.

To support the Sew the Curve Kelowna, visit their Facebook page.

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