/SIRCH rallies public with Sewing for a Great Cause
The SIRCH Repair Cafe sessions have been suspended indefinitely since social distancing measures have been implemented in the area due to the coronavirus but the spirit of collaboration continues with SIRCH's Sewing for a Great Cause. SIRCH which is serving as a collection point for fabric masks is asking for the public's help to make masks for HHHS and for the public. /FILE PHOTO

SIRCH rallies public with Sewing for a Great Cause

SIRCH Community Services and Haliburton Highlands Health Services are asking for the public’s help to build an inventory of fabric homemade masks for Haliburton County.

Although HHHS currently has an adequate supply of masks homemade fabric masks can be a viable option if other supplies have been exhausted and can also be an option for the public. SIRCH is collecting the masks through the initiative which is being called Sewing for a Great Cause.

“HHHS has first dibs of course on any masks received by SIRCH” said Gena Robertson executive director of SIRCH in a prepared statement. “But we hope we receive many thousands so they are available to give to cashiers delivery people tenants in social housing people in food services anyone caring for someone with COVID-19.”

Robertson wasn’t sure of how many masks have been made but knows a movement has begun.
“I know people are sewing like mad across the county and there is lots of chatter on various social media. Some people are sewing for other causes so honestly I have no idea what to expect. We are aiming for 800 for HHHS and then enough to offer sanitized individually bagged cloth masks to any organization or business that needs them” she wrote in an email.

Robertson said quality control for the masks will be ensured by a nurse who has offered to assess them before they are distributed. Then HHHS will wash and sanitize them and after they get their 800 will send them back to SIRCH to be individually bagged by volunteers.
“A bit of work but totally worth it” she said.

The masks must adhere to specifications including being a double fabric pleated mask design made from dark polyester or 100 per cent cotton on the outside and 100 per cent lighter-coloured cotton inside. SIRCH recommends pre-washing the cotton fabric to allow for shrinkage and have elastic ear loops and cloth ties.
Wearing a homemade mask SIRCH said cannot replace healthy practices such as regular hand washing and preventative measures such as avoiding touching the face and physical distancing.
“But masks may help reduce droplet transmissions in closer quarters with people” a press release states.

Repair Cafes suspended

Like a lot of public events during this health crisis SIRCH’s Repair Cafes have been suspended.
Robertson said physical interaction is a key component to the concept so a wait and see approach is being adopted for its return.

“The current Repair Cafe model is one of connection – so people hanging out repairing things together. I think if our new reality is different the model could be adapted but we just need to see what the ‘new normal’ is going to be. Repair Cafe is about sharing skills and experience in a face-to-face way. It’s not at all like online learning or DIY videos. The personal connection is key. So we’d have to see how to keep that” she wrote in an email. “Or if in awhile we don’t need to continue social distancing then probably we could continue with the [Repair Cafes] as is.”

The Repair Cafe co-ordinator Chris Varga who is now a volunteer and booster for SIRCH said even though the events have been suspended indefinitely his passion to help and collaborate with the volunteer base and the community of Repair Cafe groups around the world continues.

“I really want to help regardless of whether I’m getting paid or not. I want to ensure the Repair Cafe idea initiative does not just fizzle out and die” he said. “We have an opportunity here to engage people who are helpers who are fixers who can work in situations like this.”

Among the group of more than 25 fixers are Lori DaRosa and Jerry Misner of Consumer Parts Source a Haliburton-based business that sells parts and accessories. Varga said DeRosa is making masks despite an injury that will require surgery. “She’s the prime example again of somebody who said ‘I may not be able to do it all myself so I’ve tried to get all my neighbours to do it as well’” he said. Misner is using his technical skills to help.

Since the SIRCH Thrift Warehouse in Haliburton has closed there’s a collection of electronic items no one knew what to do with. Misner is dismantling many of them into their separate parts and re-using any components of value. It is serving as an example for other repair cafe locations who remain in contact with Varga and other co-ordinators. “They’re impressed with what Jerry’s doing so they are inspired by that as well. They thought that was a good idea” he said.

See repaircafe.org for more about the global community of repair cafe groups who remain in contact looking to re-invent the idea and how to use the philosophy and collection of skills to help.

The mask-making effort needs many people to contribute so it’s not just a few doing a lot of work Varga said. If there are a thousand people each making one mask it’s better than a small group each making dozens.
He encouraged people to spread the word about the mask initiative. “There is no shortage of people who would love … to be mobilized and engaged and feel useful in a time where many of us are just sitting feeling helpless” he said.

For full details about the masks see