Sandra Helm believes firmly that those with an ability to help someone have the responsibility to do so.
When she learned of the local need for protective gowns and masks at Coastal Community Health Services’ Brunswick location, and the effort being made to serve this need, Helm didn’t hesitate. She immediately offered her support and her skills as a professional seamstress.
Helm joined a team of community members who are working now to make at least 100 hospital gowns for Coastal Community Health Services, which provides primary health care services to the community. Many of its patients are uninsured or low-income.
The center has provided screening and testing since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, said Barbara Meyers, CEO. Important supplies like personal protective equipment have quickly begun to run low.
“The nurses need to wear protective equipment from head to toe — a face shield, a mask, a full gown,” Meyers said. “…With the number of people that have been coming to our doors, asking for the tests, we’ve run short on most of that. The national and state stockpiles are gone, and unfortunately we’ve been kind of last on the list, and we haven’t gotten anything in quite a while”
Meyers shared this need with community member Leslie Faulkenberry, who then partnered with Melinda Ennis-Roughton, executive director of Family Connection Glynn. Faulkenberry and Ennis-Roughton quickly assembled a team of volunteers and the supplies need to begin sewing gowns.
Meyers told Faulkenberry the health center needs around 100 gowns. Nearly 30 were completed in just a few days and delivered this week to the center.
“I think the worst feeling I have right now is being helpless, and I have to do something to fight back against that and keep myself going,” Faulkenberry said. “You share the responsibility, and you know these fantastic people at Coastal Community Health Services are up against this terrible situation, not being able to protect themselves. I just felt this must be something we could do to fill some of the gaps.”
Premier Printing in Brunswick offered to print the gown pattern, which was then delivered to the volunteers who offered to help, including professional seamstresses like Helm and Janie Pritchard along with Joan Harris and her quilting group at Community Church on St. Simons.
“I have been so overwhelmed by so many people wanting to help,” Ennis-Roughton said. “(The health crisis) is horrible because people want to help, but they also know that we have to stay at home. So people want to help, and they don’t know how to help.”
The opportunity to sew gowns for the health center has given many a chance to offer assistance, she said.
“My experience is this community sees the need, and the needs right now are the basic human needs of food, shelter and basic communication, and everybody wants to be helpful and help our community survive this,” Ennis-Roughton said.
Coastal Community Health Services has also received donations from many other groups in the community, including a mask donation from Home Depot, a donated lunch from Satilla Marsh Elementary and a donation of supplies from MAP International.
“This has just been really a wonderful show of support to us, while we’re still keeping our doors open and trying to serve those who are sick,” Meyers said.
Helm plans to continue offering her services until the health care provider has enough gowns.
“I think when you give, it comes back to you,” she said. “That’s not the reason to do it, but it just gives you some way to be occupied. It relieves stress. It helps get rid of anxiety, because you’re actively participating in a need that will make a difference.”
To complete all the gowns, though, more supplies are needed. The volunteers need quarter-link elastic, velcro and extra wide double fold bias tape. Those wishing to donate can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ennis-Roughton also encouraged community members to check the VOAD of Coastal Georgia Facebook page, which has been repurposed to provide updates on the health crisis and share resources available. The page is supported by a COVID-19 Task Force that includes Family Connection, Glynn, the Community Foundation, United Way, America’s Second Harvest, FaithWorks, Glynn Emergency Services, Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority, Salvation Army, Safe Harbor and the City of Brunswick.