Coronavirus: Londoners giving back to front-line workers and those in need of masks, scrub caps

Lisa Wright, the Grand Theatre's head of wardrobe, spends her days making masks for the community.
Lisa Wright, the Grand Theatre's head of wardrobe, spends her days making masks for the community. Grand Theatre/Twitter

A pair of Londoners are keeping busy during the COVID-19 pandemic by using their crafty talents to make masks and scrub caps for community members in need.

Lisa Wright, the head of wardrobe for the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., and Natalie Kearns, the theatre’s head of props, told 980 CFPL on Saturday that staff are no longer working at the theatre due to the novel coronavirus.

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“Normally, we would be working on our last show of the season right now, so we’ve been trying to find other ways to occupy our time,” Kearns said.

The two crafters, along with a few co-workers, opened up their own workshops at home and began to DIY some much-needed items.

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“We’re all people who are crafty and work with our hands and know our way around the sewing machine, so I think we all gravitated naturally,” said Kearns.

“It’s [also] a part of what we do in our day-to-day job.”

Wright says she’s focused on making masks while Kearns makes scrub caps.

For Wright, each mask takes about half an hour to fully produce.

She says her husband and 13-year-old are also helping out.

“They do the cutting and measuring and pinning, and I do the sewing.”

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Kearns says she produces five to six scrub caps each day.

“I made myself a dedication that I was going to watch all three of the Lord of the Rings films while I make these,” Kearns chuckled.

“So I’ve been [cutting] bulks of pieces and I started assembling them. … I’ve got a little assembly line going for myself.”

When it comes to giving masks away, Wright says she’s decided to hand out her DIY masks to more than family, friends and neighbours.

“We put it on Facebook to see who wants a mask, and we’ve had a lot of inquiries from people [like] [those] who work at the grocery store, cashiers … midwives, and a moving company contacted us as well.”
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She’s also offered to mail masks out for free if a family member or friend was unavailable to pick them up.

For Kearns, hospitals are the main destination for her homemade scrub caps.

“But I know people who, [for example], work for transit, or parents with young babies in the NICU … there’s all sorts of requests for people who are at risk.”

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The pair says they’re using scrap material they saved at the theatre and at home.

“We don’t really throw anything out at the theatre, because we can reuse so many things, so we’ve got bundles and bundles of scrap that we’ve pulled out,” said Kearns.

One of Kearns’ co-workers gave her some bedsheets for her project, and Wright’s mother donated some fabric and elastic too.

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Kingston woman raises donations to provide personal protective equipment to nurses
Kingston woman raises donations to provide personal protective equipment to nurses

The two agreed their goal is to produce as many masks and scrub caps as needed within their capabilities.

So far, Wright and her family have produced 50 masks, which have all been given out.

She says she’s received orders for 25 more from community members.

Kearns says she’s made 22 scrub caps, which have all been dropped off.

Another 10 are ready to be donated, and a “whole bunch” are cut out.

READ MORE: Calgary volunteers sew masks for medical community amid COVID-19 pandemic

Wright adds she’s also part of Canada Sews’ London chapter, which has encouraged members to sew masks, surgical caps, headbands and gowns for those in need of them.

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The group is welcoming donations and volunteers to join their team.