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Volunteers switch gears as need for masks and PPE continues

While some volunteer opportunities have dried up due to COVID-19, some have found that their skills can be used elsewhere

With the realization that so many others were sewing masks and there is a real need for different related PPE others who wanted to lend a hand have found their niche.

Retired nurse Mary Ann Goold concentrated her efforts on scrub caps for nurses at SAH and her niece working in Critical Care in London, ON.  Sewing has become a daily activity since she is no longer able to volunteer her time for "Meals on Wheels" or meet with her Wednesday quilting group.

"I strongly believe following the advice of health officials will see us through this pandemic. We must stay the course & stay at home. Changes to my life since this isolation has begun has had its benefits too.  I keep in touch daily with friends through the use of the internet whether it is sending an email or through Messenger on Facebook, or a phone call." said Goold.

"I notice when I go to grocery shop people who wear masks whether it is a fabric mask or a surgical mask purchased at a drugstore, most people are wearing these with a false sense of security.  I have seen individuals wearing the mask improperly, for example, the mask is only covering their  mouth...not over the nose.  Another person stepped out of the store then taking her hand pulling the mask to her chin only to smoke a cigarette. This act now has this person touching her face before washing their hands. These masks should be removed at once when leaving the store, place in a plastic bag taken home & washed with each use." advises Goold.

When you know you have the equipment but not necessarily the raw materials you go looking for ideas and ways to help.  Mike Nebesniuk, Civil Engineering Technologist with Norquay Engineering and local photographer put his 3D printer to use.  He went online to find what he could make and came up with Ear Strain Relievers - a device that takes the strain off the ears caused by the constant use of elastics on masks. 

Since the pandemic he has been lucky enough to work from home.  "I seldom leave the house, and have basically isolated myself." said Nebesniuk. 

"I know the guy, Charlie Lamble, former owner of Car Trek of Sault Ste. Marie, now living in Ottawa.  He was mentioned by Trudeau the other day for making PPE equipment for first responders.  He had asked me to help out, but I didn't have the raw materials. I had a 3d Printer and thought maybe I could make something. I looked up online for what I could make, and found these ear strain relieving straps.  I asked around to everyone I could think of if they wanted any, they all said no.  So I gave up for awhile."

"Then my friend Nathan Morley (who got me into 3D printing) asked me to help him print some of these for the SAH, he had a contact.  I said I would be happy to help, so I posted a photo on my Facebook page about the first batch I made, and all of a sudden I got several messages from friends who worked on the front lines, and wanted some." said Nebesniuk.

Although material costs are minimal the real investment is time.  Every 6 straps takes 5 hours to print. Mike's ear strain relievers have been delivered to hospital custodial staff, several old age homes and SAH. 

It's clear that given the situation with Covid-19 pandemic, the additional responsibilities of isolation and distancing is taxing on the mental psyche of even the strongest.  

We have been called upon to do our part. As of Monday tallies were showing approximately 459 caps, 228 ear savers and 79 headbands made and donated from those active on the main Facebook group. Those numbers do not reflect the people in the community working outside of that guidance group. Proof positive we can all work together for a common cause and do good things.

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About the Author: Violet Aubertin

Violet Aubertin is a photograher and writer with an interest in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma's great outdoors
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