Thursday, 16 July 2020

A Stitch in Time to save lives

Members of Tuggeranong Uniting Church volunteering to sew face masks for Uniting community services in Victoria. From left to right – (back) Maxine Gray, Eva Yager, Mary Howard, (front) Anne Vorobieff, Leonie Ferber. (Photo: Kerry Ranner) Members of Tuggeranong Uniting Church volunteering to sew face masks for Uniting community services in Victoria. From left to right – (back) Maxine Gray, Eva Yager, Mary Howard, (front) Anne Vorobieff, Leonie Ferber. (Photo: Kerry Ranner)

Uniting Church members with sewing skills are stepping up to meet the looming demand for face masks in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

Maxine Gray and her friends from Tuggeranong Uniting Church in Canberra’s south are among the first to answer an urgent call from Uniting community service agencies in Victoria.

Maxine says eight people in her congregation are keen to get stitching.

“Most of us have done a bit of sewing or dressmaking in our lives so we're all on board.”

“We are retired and we do have grandchildren we mind, but we’ll fit around that.”

Since the second wave of the pandemic broke out in Victoria, the National Cabinet has advised people to wear face masks in locations where there is community transmission and where physical distancing is difficult.

Uniting Vic.Tas is coordinating a national call for volunteers to make reusable, fabric face masks.

“An increase in demand for face masks is making it hard for many vulnerable and marginalised people in our communities to access them,” says Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike.

“By having cloth masks available for low-risk situations, we can ensure our supply of surgical masks can be used where they are needed most.”

“If you have time to spare and are handy with a sewing machine, we’d love your help in making face masks, which will be distributed across our services.”

Volunteers are asked to register their interest via the Uniting VicTas website or over the phone with the Uniting team on 1800 668 426.

Finished masks can be mailed directly to the Uniting Op Shop warehouse in the Melbourne suburb of Dallas, which is using COVID-19 safety measures to receive and store items.

Their address is:

Uniting Vic.Tas
38-40 Phillip Street
Dallas, VIC 3047

Masks will be distributed across Uniting Vic.Tas and Uniting AgeWell services.

UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little recently gave evidence at a Senate Inquiry into Australia’s response to the COVID pandemic in which she raised the issue of availability of PPE (personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitiser).

“I’m thrilled that our Church members are stepping up to face this urgent challenge,” said Ms Little.

“This initiative has the potential to save lives among the vulnerable people we care for.”

The three-layer pattern recommended by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services won’t be a challenge for Maxine Gray, who usually puts her dressmaking skills to work making ice-skating costumes.

But she’s looking forward to an activity for congregation members who haven’t been able to gather face-to-face in worship for several months.

“I’ve already organised a workshop at our place,” says Maxine.

“Even anyone who can't make masks can make a cup of tea or cut out or do something.”

“It’s a community effort and if you feel you’re helping people it lifts your spirits as well, as well as the people we’re doing this for.

“And we will all be wearing masks,” Maxine adds reassuringly.

The Minister at Tuggeranong Uniting and Canberra Region Pastoral Relations Committee Chairperson Rev Elizabeth Raine is delighted at how her congregation members are responding to the call for help.

“I am very proud of this group of people who are always so willing to work for the benefit and wellbeing of others.”

“They really do epitomise the spirit of serving that is throughout the Tuggeranong congregation and many UCA congregations,” said Rev. Raine.