Written by Juanita Fox
Over the last nine weeks Garden Spot Village healthcare staff have been working hard to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep team members and residents safe through the coronavirus pandemic. Items that were relatively easy to source six months ago became challenging as once-reliable vendors could only fill partial orders or simply placed items on backorder.
Although Garden Spot has a sufficient supply of masks, goggles and gowns for healthcare staff to wear, outbreaks at communities nearby made it clear that having a back-up plan was important.
“From the very beginning,” CEO Steve Lindsey says, “It was very clear that our ability to protect our team members and our residents hinged on the ability to provide proper PPE.”
“Of all the PPE that we needed to secure, gowns were the hardest,” Steve adds.
As he began to learn about communities near Philadelphia needing to source raincoats and ponchos at Home Depot and Tractor Supply to protect their staff from outbreaks, Steve thought about the resources available to Garden Spot and how the community might find ways to create their own PPE. Knowing that Garden Spot seamstresses committed to sewing 500 fabric masks for healthcare and 1,500 masks for Mennonite Disaster Service, Steve had a hunch that residents would embrace an opportunity to sew gowns too.
He began to research fabrics and his wife Sandy went to JoAnn Fabrics to source sample material. Colleen Musselman, life enrichment director, willingly stepped up to help with the project.
She borrowed one of the community’s washable gowns and disassembled it to create a pattern.
Using the fabric Sandy purchased, Colleen created a sample gown with materials sourced locally. The healthcare team approved the design. Steve immediately purchased 400 yards of Ottertex RipStop Durable Water Repellent fabric—the maximum amount he could purchase—and Colleen began to recruit volunteers.
“I do a lot of sewing so I thought I would help make the gowns. I love that we are supporting our community together,” says Leslie Alford, a Garden Spot Village resident since March 2017.
Jill Smith, a Garden Spot Village resident since June 2019, volunteered to cut wrist cuffs from men’s sock tops as well as ties for the gowns. “When I learned they needed help, I thought ‘This is something I can do!’ I’m always looking for opportunities to get involved,” she says.
Leslie, Jill and an additional 25 volunteers, quickly stepped up to help. One day after the fabric arrived, Colleen had a team cutting fabric, ties and cuffs as well as assembling kits for 200 gowns. The following week she distributed the kits to volunteers who committed to sewing the gowns in their homes.
The initiative to create 200 gowns is Phase 1, Steve relates; it gives some breathing room as we try to secure additional washable gowns. He’s thankful for the way the community embraced the opportunity. “This project is indicative of our community,” he says. “We pull together. We genuinely care about each other. Our relationships are authentic and we are living life together, making the best out of the situation. People are willing to bring all of their gifts and talents to keep everyone safe and healthy.”
“Love calls us to action,” he adds. “To help each other, however, we can. To live other-centered instead of self-centered.”