WINDSOR, ON, March 30, 2021 - The Windsor Essex Sewing Force (WESF) reached a major milestone this week by sewing over 50,000 facemasks and scrub caps in the span of one year.
The all-volunteer grassroots group mobilized home sewists and others at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide emergency stopgap personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers. Following the Ontario Medical Association’s Framework for Reopening, the group provided thousands more of the evidence-based masks to those in the most vulnerable and highest risk groups including seniors, low-income families, people with disabilities, migrant workers and at-risk children.
“Volunteers knew they wanted to make the best masks possible for our community” says WESF cofounder Rebecca Rudman. “It was natural for us to reach out to local researchers at the Great Lake Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) with its expertise in quality control and materials analysis, and WE-SPARK Health Institute with their network of experts at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Hospital.”
With a grounding in science and ethics, the WESF built connections with a broad cross-section of organizations in the Windsor-Essex community which was instrumental in getting masks where they were most needed. Local organizations supporting the volunteer efforts included The City of Windsor, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, local quilt guilds, industry and small businesses, social service organizations, advocacy groups and more.
“Our next step is a public awareness campaign to make sure everyone in the community who needs a mask gets one and raising funds to meet those needs” continues Rudman. “In addition, WESF will be focused on sharing what we’ve learned with the science community.” Lead researcher on the project, Dr. Ken Drouillard, Professor, GLIER and School of the Environment, University of Windsor explains: “Most mask surveys have been focused on healthcare professionals. We are leading a new mask survey of the public to understand their perspectives on mask fit, comfort and usefulness. Understanding the experience of people in the community is critical as public mask mandates have been shown to be a vital public health tool. We have a unique opportunity to improve tools for the remainder of this pandemic and prepare for the future.”
To request a mask/cap, volunteer, donate or take part in the brief mask survey, visit www.wesf.ca