Canada Sews Ontario East recently received the 2020 Health is a Community Affair Award from the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre “in recognition of the donation of cloth masks to front-line workers and vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic.” The award was accepted by Cheryl Guy on Sept. 8 on behalf of all those who have volunteered their time and effort to the organization. From the left: Monique Clèment, Anita Comfort, Cheryl Guy and Joan Davis. Thompson Goddard photo

MOREWOOD – Canada Sews Ontario East (CSOE) has received the 2020 Health is a Community Affair Award from the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre.

The award was accepted on behalf of CSOE by Cheryl Guy, a members of the group’s administrative team, on Sept. 8 during their online annual general meeting. The certificate accompanying the 2020 Health is a Community Affairs Award, states the award is given to Canada Sews Ontario East “in recognition of the donation of cloth masks to front-line workers and vulnerable populations during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

On March 20 of this year, Joan Davis and Anita Comfort created the “Sewing for Lives Ontario” group on Facebook which began organizing local volunteers wishing to produce face coverings, using  approved designs for essential service and front-line workers. Sewing for Lives Ontario reorganized to Canada Sews Ontario East soon after, with Davis and Comfort joined by Monique Clèment and Cheryl Guy to complete the administrative team for CDOE; joining the national group Canada Sews, founded by Lee-Anne Moore-Thibert which has representation in nine provinces across the country.

The Chesterville Record interviewed Davis, Comfort, Clèment and Guy soon after the award was received at the home of Davis just outside of Morewood. Though the weather outside was rainy, there was plenty of sunshine around the Davis’ kitchen table as the four women shared some of their experiences over the past few months.

Described by all four women as an army of volunteers, they thanked all those who have contributed to the cause of ensuring the safety of others during this medical emergency. They described how in addition to the sewers who worked to sew the face coverings, surgical scrub caps and surgical gowns, there were countless people who would prepare donated fabric for use, those who created pre-cut kits and those who sewed buttons onto ear protectors and surgical scrub caps. Davis mentioned there were almost daily donations of supplies such as fabric, elastics, buttons as well as monetary funds provided to purchase supplies as necessary. Sewing machine repair persons have also donated their skills, with several quilters donating material and some fabric and stores offering discounts on materials for the organization.

The list of jobs for people in this volunteer grass-roots organization seems to be never-ending as the women mentioned the businesses and individuals who made face shields, created 3D ear protectors, jigs for bias tape makers and intubation boxes. It was explained that the Winchester & District Memorial Hospital and the Kemptville District Hospital each received two of the intubation boxes, which provide safety for those who need to be intubated.  

Mention was made of the businesses and individuals who provided centralized pick-up points across the area and the drivers who spent countless hours picking up completed masks, delivering them, and of the hours spent by Guy and Clèment in coordinating the scheduling and supporting the volunteers. 

When asked about their favourite memories of their work over the past few months, Guy mentioned how she enjoyed organizing requests, providing moral support and information to the volunteers.  Comfort commented that she is happy with seeing the diverse communities coming together to help people. She continued that all those involved in CSOE went the extra mile to make things happen. 

Davis echoed Comfort’s comments saying as the group began, she was overwhelmed by the response from the “people who wanted to help.” Clèment explained how one of the women in the group reached out to her with support and appreciation on a difficult day, which gave her incentive to carry on with the work.

The CDOE Facebook page has been a source of information, inspiration and support for those who visit it. Davis mentioned how initially the volunteers began making face coverings from approved patterns for the front-line workers, but as the needs quickly changed, the organization began providing patterns for scrub caps, surgical gowns and other items needed. All seemed to agree that making the items for the front-line workers helped many of the volunteers cope with the restrictions instituted to reduce the spread of Covid-19. 

Statistics obtained from CSEO shows how as of Sept. 11 volunteers have produced and delivered a staggering 64,899 face coverings or masks, 9,388 headbands, 6,553 scrub caps, 951 wet bags (used to wash PPE after worn), 582 surgical gowns, 1,151 face shields and 1,581 ear savers. These items have been provided to organizations throughout the local area such as health partners, community organizations such as Community Food Share. Comfort explained how when all local requests are filled, donations have been sent to locations in other Canadian regions. For example, face coverings have been provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed to Latvia. Comfort coordinated CSOE contribution of face coverings to the Saskatchewan Canadian Rangers.  

Davis commented the focus now is being centred on providing the opportunity for elementary, secondary and post secondary educational institutions to receive face coverings. She continued many of the volunteers are now focusing on making face coverings for school children and mentioned a request for these can be made at