Alta. community creates scrub bags

Volunteers in the Clive, Alta., area created scrub bags for health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic that included indigenous artwork. |  Laurie Hermary photo

Health-care workers can use the bags to store their work clothes after shifts to help reduce the spread of COVID-19

When Laurie Hermary first realized scrub bags were needed for health-care workers in neighbouring communities, she immediately went work.

Hermary, along with many others, began sewing dozens of bags. Health-care and group-home workers can use them to store their work clothes after their shifts.

With COVID-19, health-care employees are trying to reduce the spread of the virus. The bags help ensure their clothes don’t come in contact with other surfaces.

“We thought this was something we could co-ordinate and run through our society and centre,” said Hermary, who is also the owner of the Morton Historical Multi Culture Center in Clive, Alta.

“It’s bringing a lot of people together,” she said.

Hermary said volunteers have already made more than 1,000 bags. They have gone to health centres and hospitals in the Lacombe, Ponoka, Bentley, Maskwacis and Bashaw areas.

She said she first got word of the need for scrub bags through social media. Once volunteers got together, they used any high-quality material that was available.

A lot of quilters had a lot of unused fabric sitting in their closets, she said. As well, local stores donated material to help with the effort.

“People have stepped up and everyone comes with different skill levels,” she said. “The bags are all unique and made with love. They all have a draw-string zipper on top.”

She said the generosity from others has been unbelievable.

“Some sewers are saying they are not quitting until everything is done,” Hermary said. “This one guy, from Lacombe has a 3-D printer. He made us bias tape makers. For a seamstress, that was really helpful.”

Hermary also partnered with Ryan Jason Allen Willert, an indigenous artist. Willert donated his artwork with the bags. It depicts an eagle with eagle feathers, a sign of strength, he said.

He said he hopes his art bridges people and gives them hope.

“It’s a warm image with a strong meaning that is encouraging people to love who they are, learn about their own culture, and learn about our culture through our art,” Willert said. “It’s very important to know who you are.”

He said some indigenous peoples are experiencing a lot of pain because of previous trauma, which includes impacts from the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop, and systemic racism.

Willert said, for him, re-connecting with his roots helped him heal.

“We believe that to be a strong and healthy person, you must have strong roots and know where you came from,” he said. “This image represents people connecting with their roots.”

Willert said health is important for people, explaining indigenous communities have experienced past epidemics, like whooping cough, swine flu and measles.

“These things completely wiped out our people so it’s extremely important that people out there keep the community and keep our elders alive, as well as be prepared by having the right supplies,” he said.

“When I heard what Laurie (Hermary) was doing, it really made me happy. I didn’t hesitate to help.”

Hermary said Willert’s art helps connect people with one another and with themselves.

“With his teaching on the back, we are hoping people will take notice of it and take a little bit from it,” she said. “We are all in this together.”

She said she hopes to one day get the multicultural centre off the ground. It would be a place that would allow people of different backgrounds to come together and learn from one another, she said.

It would be in the town’s historical building, which Hermary’s family has owned for seven generations.

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