The legion of volunteers kitting out Worksop's health workers with scrubs

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There may have been a shortage of personal protective equipment for health workers – but a community of volunteers have set up a mini-industry to fill the gap in Bassetlaw.

Co-ordinated from a workshop, hundreds of items including complete sets of scrubs are being sent out to nurses, care workers and dentists, all created by an industrious army of voluntary textile workers.

The delighted recipients work all aross the NHS, and many make contact with the team directly, sometimes when scrubs are not available elsewhere.

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The hub takes in material, dishes out patterns to the team of volunteers across Bassetlaw and Doncaster. The volunteers then get to work either cutting out from the patterns or sewing them together.

Maria Leone with some of the scrubs she has made as part of the Doncaster an Bassetlaw For The Love of Scrubs groupMaria Leone with some of the scrubs she has made as part of the Doncaster an Bassetlaw For The Love of Scrubs group
Maria Leone with some of the scrubs she has made as part of the Doncaster an Bassetlaw For The Love of Scrubs group | Other 3rd Party

At the centre of this is charity worker Kerry Burton.

Kerry, who usually works as the volunteer co-ordinator for the charity Refurnish, became aware of the shortage, and heard about a national group that had been set up called For the Love of Scrubs, creating clothing for medics. With her work at Refurnish on hold, she set her mind to running Doncaster and Bassetlaw For the Love of scrubs. The Facebook group she uses to co-ordinate the team now has some 400 members.

She said: “I saw something locally with people saying they wanted to do something, but no one had stepped forward to run it. My job is as a volunteer co-ordinator, so I gave it a go. Now we have about 400 volunteers and it’s really snowballed.

“We’re providing things for care homes, dentists emergency hubs, GPs surgeries, and various units in the hospitals. We’re sending to nurses at the hospital rather than the hospital trust itself.

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Doncaster College lecturer Noreen Naseen with some of the scrubs she has madeDoncaster College lecturer Noreen Naseen with some of the scrubs she has made
Doncaster College lecturer Noreen Naseen with some of the scrubs she has made | Other 3rd Party

“The hospital trust insists on meeting certain criteria, for a particular specialist fabiric, but we can’t get that because the manufacture has closed its doors.”

The group has also set up a fundraising arm online, run by Kerry’s boss at Refurnish, Andy Simpson. That has already raised over £2,500, with some of the money coming from grants and from trustees of Refurnish. One of the charity’s accountants is helping him. The money is used to buy some of the fabric that is needed.

Fabric has also come through donations of things like bedsheets.

The fabric is not always the standard NHS colours. Much of it is patterned, with one volunteer having created a Scooby Doo set of scrubs. They are made with the material available. But they are making sure it is all industrially launderable, and will not melt if it is came into contact with a flame.

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Marina Grimshaw with some of the sets of scrubs she has madeMarina Grimshaw with some of the sets of scrubs she has made
Marina Grimshaw with some of the sets of scrubs she has made | Other 3rd Party

Print outs for patterns have been done by a printers in Kirk Sandall. Volunteers at Ranby Prison have done some of the cutting using industrial equipment that they have on the site. The prison is also holding a Spinathon on exercise bikes to raise money for the group’s materials.

There have also been donations from groups include the waste firm Suez, and local Lions and Rotary clubs, as well as members of the public.

Volunteers including Kerry’s husband have been helping with deliveries, and volunteers help with administration.

There are some prolific volunteers. Kerry estimates industrial sewer Sue Nicholas, from Harworth, is sewing 30 to 40 scrubs a week.

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Kerry Burton, with some of the washing bags created by the Doncaster and Bassetlaw For the Love of Scrubs groupKerry Burton, with some of the washing bags created by the Doncaster and Bassetlaw For the Love of Scrubs group
Kerry Burton, with some of the washing bags created by the Doncaster and Bassetlaw For the Love of Scrubs group | Other 3rd Party

Maria Leone, aged 71, a seamstress, is doing the job while on furlough from her job sewing historical marquee tents in Retford.

“I would estimate that we have 150-200 sewing,” said Kerry. “It’s not just scrubs they’re making. They’re making washing bags that people can put their items in, scrub hats like surgeons wear, and head bands with buttons on them that they use to stop their ears getting sore from straps going around them.

“We are hearing some sad stories, but also seeing some wonderful acts of kindness.

“There are couple of members of the group who have lost family members to the virus, and that is heartbreaking. But people are getting involved for all kinds of different reasons.

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“For many, it gives them something to do and to think about. It is amazing how people are starting to team up to help.”

“It is lovely to see how grateful people are when they receive their items, although people are worried about the situation.

“I think when it is all over, we will look back and think, wow, we did all that.

“But I think there will be long terms friendships formed from what we’re doing.”

Case studies

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Marina Grimshaw, from Retford, said she saw a post on social media about making scrubs for hospitals for free. She messaged the organiser and received an internet link for the main group For the Love of Scrubs. Joining that group she found the local co-ordinators.

She said: “I got in touch with Kerry and said that I would like to make some scrubs.

“The fabric was delivered to me next day. I was very excited and wanted to start as soon as possible. That day of delivery was my birthday and I celebrated my birthday making my first pair of scrubs. Very romantic – drinking Prosecco and sewing!

“After completing my first batch of five sets I asked for more fabric and now are finishing the seventh pair – 12th in total.

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“I am very proud to be a member of the team helping the nurses and doctors and it is a great honour for me to join the mission as I am a foreigner.

“I am originally from Kazakhstan. My husband is British and we are married for three years already.”

Doncaster College graphic design lecturer Noreen Naseem has made 28 set of scrubs. She had previously used her sewing machine for making rag dolls for her own two-year-old daughter, and for friends’ children.

The 36-year-old suffers from asthma and is self isolating. Her mum works as a nurse, and was keen to do something to help.

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She said: “Sewing has been a hobby for me, an when I heard about making scrubs like this, it felt like an opportunity to actually do something to help. I’ve enjoyed it and it has felt therapeutic. It’s done a lot for my confidence – I will make dresses for my daughter in the future.”

Group member Jeanette Fenlon, from Haxey, said: “I’ve only done Scrub bags and extensions so far. Starting Scrub hats tomorrow. Just wanted to give a little something back to the NHS.”

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