On the 26th of March when PM Boris Johnson rallied the country to volunteer their time and support the NHS, Shelagh Cheetham, a retired school teacher, worried about local Services acquiring PPE and decided to produce face coverings for the local community. Demand was immediate and huge, and so Shelagh decided to put out a call for help. She expected a few to join in; soon there were 250 - two hundred and fifty volunteers industriously sewing, cutting out and delivering face coverings to everyone who needed them.
We are proud that we have been a pro-active group who called for a common sense approach to masking, as well as providing masks for those in immediate need. We anticipated changes in legislation in a timely manner and kept the momentum going through lockdowns, lift-ups, vaccination roll-outs and more.
With generous donations of fabric, raw material and time from the local community, we were able to send out more than 78,000 face coverings to over 1200 organisations - having not purchased any fabric at all!
All our volunteers have talked openly about the personal benefits of volunteering…the sense of belonging and purpose that was gained when separated from loved ones, family and friends. The importance of daily communication, the amazing work being done and the sense of pride and achievement from it was something special; it had to be nurtured. With the generous support from Dronfield Town Council, the Circle arranged for drop-in sessions at the Civic Hall in Dronfield. We now had a base where volunteers could come to collect materials, drop off face coverings and where parcels of these essential items could be made up to go to organisations across the country (Our drop-in sessions continue to this day - every Tuesday and Thursday we welcome everyone to join us in our projects - crafting, learning and helping people as best we can). The delivery in large part was aided by the wonderful Volunteer Riders UK with whom we enjoyed a strong partnership.
As demand for face coverings eased up, we began scouting for other ways in which we could help people with crafted goods - and the seed of an idea for a charity began to form.
Our New Beginning... Not the End!
With vaccines rolling out and lockdown easing, our thoughts have turned to ‘what’s next?’ After conversations with volunteers, we believed that ‘Shelagh’s Sewing Circle’, had a future beyond the Pandemic. We applied to become a Charity. All our current Trustees are volunteers who stepped forward to take on the responsibility of driving the charity forward...demonstrating qualities we already knew our volunteers had – hard work and commitment.
On the 18th of September, close to 18 months since it first began, Shelagh's Sewing Circle was brought to an official close at a celebratory picnic organised by the volunteers, for the volunteers. Part of the event was an extraordinary exhibition - from carefully sorted thank you cards, to awards and recognitions, to calendars marking every important milestone, to statistics that boggled the mind - this exhibition was the perfect encapsulation of everything the Circle had achieved. We have no doubt that many lives have been saved as well as spirits raised by Shelagh’s Sewing Circle and our small gifts of kindness and hope –
we hope to do the same through crafting2gether.