Group seeking volunteers in Calgary and area to help make scrub bags for health-care workers

Nicole Proseilo (right) and her mother Janet Proseilo put the finishing touches on a pair of scrub bags they sewed for health-care workers.
Nicole Proseilo (right) and her mother Janet Proseilo put the finishing touches on a pair of scrub bags they sewed for health-care workers. Global News

Like many people, Nicole Proseilo found herself out of work at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With time suddenly on her hands, the Airdrie resident was looking for a way to help out in the community when a Facebook post from a nurse named Janette Rees caught her attention.

“She wanted bags for nurses, and me and mom started sewing them,” Proseilo explained.

The bags they began sewing are intended to be used by nurses and other health-care workers who want to change out of their scrubs before coming home. When they get home, the bag, with the clothes contained inside, goes directly into the washing machine.

“It prevents them from taking home any kind of germ they’re exposed to [at the hospital] home,” said Proseilo.
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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hundreds of Alberta quilters make scrub bags for health-care workers

Once the initial request had been fulfilled, Proseilo, her mom, Rees and two other volunteers fulfilled another request for 200 masks for the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Then, according to Proseilo, things started to snowball “quickly.”

“I was hoping to get 200 bags and say that’s good and then I had people contacting me asking for them,” she said.

“Then, all of a sudden, with the four original people that we started organizing with, it started to get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

That might be a bit of an understatement. Within weeks, the volunteer group grew to close to 300 people who, to date, have sewn nearly 8,000 scrub bags from donated materials at no cost whatsoever to those who need them.

“It was actually quite shocking and heartwarming, but it doesn’t surprise me [at the same time] because Canadians are really generous and giving kinds of people,” Proseilo said.
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She has since created a Facebook group called Bags for the Front-Line to handle and organize requests, donations and volunteers. Currently the group has enough material donations and supplies to meet demand but they are lacking volunteers to sew.

“It’s a big operation and we’ve had volunteers come and go,” said Proseilo, adding that they also need volunteers to write notes and cards of gratitude to include with each bag.

“There’s still a need because dental professionals now need them because of the pandemic, and so we really need more sewers,” she said.

Joyce Kornelson has sewn over 200 bags for the group so far and says it’s an easy way for seniors like herself to get involved with the community and make an impact.

“It’s a great way to involve people who have the time who want to give or donate in some way, but maybe don’t know how to proceed,” Kornelson said.

“We supply the fabric. All you need is thread and your sewing skills,” Proseilo added.

The popularity of the Facebook group also caught the attention of another local group called Smile of Compassion, who themselves are making and giving away hand-sewn face masks free of charge.

“Being able to help people, it just makes you feel better and happier, and then everyday you wake up, you actually feel like it’s meaningful, you know?” said Lee Nguyen, a member of Smile of Compassion.

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Nguyen first met Proseilo when picking up material left over from the bags to help her group make more face masks. That meeting led to a collaboration and now Smile of Compassion includes one of their hand-sewn masks in each of the scrub bags.

Both groups are asking anyone who needs a scrub bag or face mask to reach out to them for help, including seniors, people who are immunocompromised and any other health-care professionals like dentists.

Additionally, Smile of Compassion will be giving away free masks at a public event on June 12 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on a first come, first served basis at the Calgary Korean Art Club.