A PENINSULA volunteer group has just donated its 1,000th item of personal protective equipment (PPE) to front line health workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Sew Grateful was started in March by Cove woman Carol Anne Calder and now has 64 members making and distributing face shields, masks, gowns and scrub bags.

More than £4,800 has been raised to support the efforts of the group and with orders still coming in Carol Anne is keen for more helpers to get behind the project.

She said: “We decided to increase our fund-raising target last week.

“When we first launched the GoFundMe page we had a target of £1,000 and we blew through that in the first hour. We put it up to £2,500 and we got that within the first week and still kept getting donations, so we’ve just carried on taking orders.

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“We were getting to the point where we knew we were going to start running out of funding, so we thought we would just be ambitious.

"We’ve now got a target of £10,000 because the orders are still coming in thick and fast.

"I thought it would’ve slowed down by now but there’s still so much demand out there.”

Carol Anne was inspired to set up the Sew Grateful group after seeing similar initiatives on social media and despite admitting to being “not much of a seamstress” herself, she has helped co-ordinate an efficient workforce of like-minded locals.

Items have been handed out to care homes in the Helensburgh and Lomond area, as well as Clydebank and Drumchapel, while GP practices, district nurses, community nurses and healthcare workers have received supplies too.

READ MORE: Helensburgh medical staff say 'thank you' to volunteers for making scrub uniforms

Face masks are also freely available for anyone in the community to pick up from the Cove village shop.

“I worked in the oil industry in management consultancy for over 20 years,” she said, “so I do have a background in organising teams and working remotely.

“I’ve got the organising and managing background but zero sewing background which is fine because there are lots of people on the team who are very good at that stuff.

“My policy is don’t say no to anybody because for a lot of folk they’re really happy to be actively engaged.

“We have a number of folk who don’t sew at all but they do various other jobs and of these 64 people most of them I don’t know, I’ve never met them, everything is done with zero physical contact.

READ MORE: We chat to the community volunteers making PPE in Helensburgh and Lomond

“Lots of GP practices and district nursing teams are still struggling to get scrubs so we’re starting to make them now. If there are other volunteers out there who would like to join the group we would be delighted to have them.”

Surpassing the 1,000th item milestone is an admirable achievement for the group, though it’s not one which Carol Anne ever expected to reach.

She added: “I thought I would sew a couple of masks at home in the evening when I was watching the TV and it would probably go on for a couple of weeks then that would be it.

“I had no concept that it was going to grow to this size, involve this many people, involve this number of items or still be happening two months later.

“This group of people, some of whom are still working full-time, some of whom have kids who are being home-schooled, are all still working away because they know that people on the front line really need it.

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“Our motto is ‘no pressure, no problem, no judgment’, so everybody just works at their own speed. If anybody needs to take a couple of days out then that’s fine – everybody is very supportive of one another and helpful towards one another.

“It’s a difficult time for everybody, and having a focus and feeling like there’s something you can do to contribute is important.”

Kilcreggan resident Daryl Youden started sewing masks for the group after being placed on furlough by golf tour operators Perry Golf.

"I'm normally sitting at a desk in an office in Helensburgh," she said, "So this is quite a nice change for me.

"I would've probably gone stir crazy if I didn't have this to do because I live alone and I'm not working so I would've been at home all day twiddling my thumbs.

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"This has definitely filled my day, without a doubt.

"This is the first sewing I've done in about 25 years, so I'm an amateur, but enthusiastic.

"Everybody is just pulling together, that's what I've really like about it.

"It's keeping a lot of people active who wouldn't normally be. I like to walk and I do a bit of knitting and a bit of handicraft, but to be stuck in here all day doing that I would've struggled, so it's definitely helped our mental health."

Jane McLean recently retired as a community child health nurse in Helensburgh and has been sewing masks and scrubs while shielding at home.

READ MORE: 'Thank you'...our simple message to Helensburgh's health and care heroes

She told the Advertiser: "I wanted to do something to help.

"When you work really hard to keep well and then get kept in and have no way of helping, no way of going out shopping or anything, this was a godsend.

"I wanted to give something back because I know how difficult it can be in the NHS at times.

"I can remember the swine flu and other things like that when we had pressures, so at least I'm coming at it from a different angle now."

The group is in need of more helpers to keep up with demand: if you're interested in joining, email cacalder@sbcglobal.net.

Alternatively, you can donate to the cause by searching for 'Sew Grateful' on GoFundMe.

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