Sewing Can Save Lives: Community Support Protects Southeast Georgia Health System During COVID-19 Pandemic

April 10, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. On a personal level, people are practicing social distancing, wearing facemasks and finding inventive ways to work and visit loved ones without leaving home. On a national level, unemployment is high, the economy is low, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages are a growing concern for hospitals and health care facilities. But during these uncertain, turbulent times, one thing has remained steadfast in our corner of southeast Georgia: community support.

Debbie WilliamsonWhen it became apparent that obtaining PPE would be increasingly difficult, Southeast Georgia Health System put out a call to anyone who had the means and willingness to sew cloth masks to help supplement their supplies. That call did not go unanswered. Since March 30, when they began accepting cloth mask donations, the Health System has received more than 1,400 masks.

Kristin Doll, CAVS, director of Volunteer Services, coordinates the cloth mask donations. “I’m so touched every time I collect the masks from our donation bins. To read the notes of gratitude and encouragement included with the donations and to think about the generosity of the donors—their time and contribution of materials for the project—is really heartwarming,” she says. “Life has been extremely difficult for many people in recent weeks, yet seeing our community come together to help one another in a time of need is something very special that we can all be grateful for.”

Cloth masks have been donated by individuals, like Ms. Debbie Williamson, and through the efforts of organizations such as Twin Rivers Baptist Church (Hortense, GA), Brunswick Women’s Club, Sweet Rivers Fabric with Brunswick Bedding & Upholstery and Farmers Interiors, the sewing ministry at Frederica Baptist Church, St. Simons Island Strummers & The Banditas, Glynn County Medical Alliance, Great Expectations Sewing & Alterations, Brunswick Actor’s Guild, Beyond Fabric, Professional Embroidery Specialists, Satilla Quilters, Christ Church Frederica, Island Drapes and Upholstery, Nancy’s, Scrappy Rooster Quilt Shop, and Southeast Georgia Health System Volunteer Services. Additionally, many mask donations have been submitted anonymously.

When masks are donated, Doll works in coordination with Health System departments and leadership to determine the locations in most need of PPE. “Our first donations were sent to our Senior Care Centers for team members and residents.” Doll says. “Then we began distribution to our team members who work in departments that do not perform direct patient care in order to preserve our PPE resources for clinical team members. Some have gone to our administrative team members, finance, business office, labs, medical records, patient experience, etc.”

cloth masksDoll adds, “And the notes of encouragement and support we often receive with the masks are touching. Today, we received a mask donation and sweet note from a patient who was on their way to have surgery. The note indicated they would make more if needed once they recover from their procedure. Another donation from Leigh Kosidowski of Patterson, Georgia, submitted masks, ‘made with love, gratitude and prayers for your health and well-being, in honor of my brother, Jim O’Conner, a nurse in SICU.’ The community support is so heartfelt in a time when the need is so great. Our community has truly stepped up to meet that need.”

For those interested in contributing, the Health System is still accepting cloth mask donations. Masks must be made of a tightly woven cotton fabric. They are laundered in high heat with bleach, so elastic straps or cloth ties are preferred. Rubber bands or other improvised materials that cannot withstand the laundering process should be avoided. The mask must be large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth, and prewashing the fabric is recommended due to shrinkage.

“We have received some masks with elastic and some with ties as well as varying design styles,” says Doll. “Different people have different preferences; it’s been nice to have a variety for our team members to choose what fits best for them.”

Cloth mask drop-off bin locations are open weekdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

BRUNSWICK CAMPUS (at the temporary main entrance)

2415 Parkwood Drive, Brunswick

The bin is located under the covered parking area on the corner of Parkwood Drive and Kemble Avenue.

CAMDEN CAMPUS (at the Main Entrance to the hospital)

2000 Dan Proctor Drive, St. Marys

The bin is located just inside the lobby doors.

Donations should include:

  1. Name(s) of the sewers.
  2. Name of the group or business who sewed/donated the masks.
  3. Contact phone number or email.

“Many people in our community have either received services from us or personally know one of our team members, so there is a real sense of connection when we receive these masks made by our very own friends, neighbors and patients,” says Michael D. Scherneck, Health System president & CEO. “Our mission and focus has always been to serve the health needs of those in the communities we serve and to now have these communities help serve our health needs in return is incredible.”

Questions regarding cloth mask donations may be directed to Kristin Doll, CAVS, director, Southeast Georgia Health System Volunteer Services. Call 912-466-1071 or email kdoll@sghs.org.

If you experience symptoms or were exposed to someone infected with COVID-19, call the Health System’s Screening Hotline at 912-466-7222, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. For COVID-19 updates, visit www.sghs.org/COVID-19 or www.cdc.gov.

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