Czar quilters shift focus to help rural health-care workers

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Quilt guild member, Marianne Morrell, shows the scrubs bags that volunteers have dropped off in a basket on her porch for donation to the Provost Health Centre. She will wash all the bags she collects before delivering them to the hospital. ECA Review/Submitted

Scrubs bags symbolize the giving spirit of community.

A group from east central Alberta is showing their support for rural healthcare workers, stitch by stitch, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members from the Czar Quilters Guild volunteered to sew cotton drawstring bags so local health-care workers could safely transport their dirty scrubs home for washing after their shifts, says president Carol Penman, who lives on a farm near Czar, Alta. about 150 km. east of Camrose.

In just nine days, some members and a few other contributors managed to create 280 bags to donate to the Provost Health Centre, Consort Hospital and Care Centre, and the Points West Living Wainwright – a seniors’ housing complex.

Some Wainwright members, who also belong to other area quilting groups, sewed an additional 160 bags for staff at the Wainwright Health Centre.

“It was so funny how excited [the guild members] seemed; it’s so good,” says Penman, noting it was a voluntary call out to members who wanted to participate.

“The big thing is they are doing something for someone else. That’s just so important, and that always makes everyone feel better if they can help.”

Just 204 people officially call Czar home, so the 63-member-strong quilt guild also draws members from across central Alberta including Wainwright, Provost, Hughenden, Amisk, Hardisty, Sedgewick, Alliance, Forestburg and Lacombe.

One member even travels from Martinsville, Sask. a three-and-a-half-hour drive away, to participate.

The guild members, who range in age from 53 to 90 years, typically meet in Czar twice a month; however, provincially mandated restrictions currently prevent the group from holding their regular gatherings, where they normally spend five or six hours working on individual or charity projects and meeting up with familiar faces.

“It’s actually sometimes more of a support group than anything else and social time. People are really going to be missing this,” says Penman of the informal setting. The suggestion for the scrubs bags came from Penman’s daughter-in-law, Darci Penman, after seeing the concept on a Facebook health-care group. The pattern that the Czar guild recommends originates from a Claresholm shop, Willow Creek Quilts.

“It really gave a group of people [who] are now at home self-isolating, … something to do and made them feel like they’re contributing to help with the effort,” says Darci, who works as a registered nurse at the Provost Health Centre. “It’s wonderful that we get to reap the benefits of their talents.”

Alberta Health Services recently mandated that all health-care staff change into street clothes after their shifts to avoid the possible spread of the coronavirus to their families at home, she says.

Staff are responsible for laundering their own scrubs since Provost is a smaller hospital with a total of 62 acute and long-term beds.

“When the nurse or the housekeeper, or whoever, takes their uniform off at the end of the shift, they can put them directly into the bag which is sitting in a clean place in their locker room, and then they take that bag home and throw it in the wash,” says Lana Clark, site manager at the Provost Health Centre.

Clark says she had never heard of the scrubs bag concept before, but staff are embracing the idea after receiving the first delivery of the colourful bags.

For Darci, the scrubs bags symbolize the giving spirit of the greater community in which she lives and works.

“When you live in a rural area, I feel like you’re closer to the community.”


Courtesy of Lorena Franchuk, Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP)

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