Volunteer group battles COVID-19 with sewing needles

Masks as created by members of the Windsor Essex Sewing Force. Photo by Karen Harris.

There are many weapons in the fight against coronavirus, but one Windsor-Essex group is fighting it with a different kind of weapon.

The Windsor-Essex Sewing Force (WESF), an all-volunteer group creating thousands of homemade personal protective equipment for local healthcare workers, has teamed up with the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to create personal protective equipment (PPE). So far, WESF has made over 10,000 facemasks and scrub caps for distribution to healthcare workers at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital, and long-term care homes across the region.

WESF co-founder Kelly Mullen said this humanitarian work has hit home for many of the group’s members.

“Many volunteers are from vulnerable groups themselves: seniors, people with disabilities, undergoing treatment for major illnesses, and-or facing economic challenges,” said Mullen. “What’s common to all is their commitment to keeping frontline healthcare workers safe.”

The effort is a project of WE-Spark Institute, a healthcare research consortium made up of HDGH, Windsor Regional Hospital, the university and the college. WESF provides volunteers with sewing patterns and coordinates access to supplies. Transportation of the completed PPE is also arranged for those volunteers who are unable to leave their homes.

Rebecca Rudman, another co-founder of WESF, said that even as the upper hand appears to be taken against COVID-19, the demand for PPE is outweighing the supply.

“We were fortunate to partner with our local educational and healthcare institutions on a WE-Spark Health Institute project to create a coordinated process while developing cutting edge research,” said Rudman. “Our volunteers have been making huge personal investments in time and resources. We now need to raise money so our volunteers don’t have to pay out of their own pocket to buy supplies.”

WESF is accepting donations to help pay for supplies the volunteers can use. The donations are processed by U of W, with all proceeds going to the group. If you are interested in donating, visit the link on the U of W website. Complete information about WESF is found on its website as well.