A Stitch, Just in Time.


A group of over 60 stitchers from across Ballymena and County Antrim have made over 4,000 pairs of scrubs in just two weeks, to be distributed to local hospitals and care homes across the local area.


Their tremendous efforts were co-ordinated by Harold and Alison McCloy, founders and owners of Village Blinds in Pennybridge Industrial Estate, Ballymena, together with members of their family and friends. The project came about when Village Blinds was forced to close temporarily due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 


“Although we had taken the decision to close temporarily, we wanted to do something to help in providing a product or service for our incredible NHS staff and care workers,” explained Harold. “With the urgent need for scrubs so highly documented, we knew this was something practical that we could help with.”


With many fabric manufacturers also closed, Harold struggled to source a bulk fabric initially, until he spoke to Kevin Devlin, managing director of fabric manufacturer William Clark and Sons in Upperlands, Maghera. 


“Kevin kindly agreed to bring back some of his staff to produce the fabric we needed if we placed a minimum order of 10,000 metres,” continued Harold.  “A friend immediately launched a fundraising campaign to raise the five-figure sum required to buy the fabric and, within days, had exceeded our target thanks to the kindness and generosity of hundreds of people.” 


“We had then started to cut and distribute the fabrics within our own factory to enable our stitcher volunteers to get to work. With the demand being so pressing, however, we had to switch to auto machine cutting of the scrubs, working with Bradfor’s from Rostrevor, who kindly offered their services free of charge. This allowed the 10,000 metres of fabric to be cut into pieces ready for stitching.”


Harold and Alison distributed the fabric to what they described as “an exceptional band of stitchers”, made up of over 60 volunteers spread right across County Antrim – including Ballymena, Broughshane, Cullybackey, Cloughmills, Ahoghill and Larne. The groups involved were “Bannside Stitchers”, “Cloughmills Crochet Club” & ”Tullygarley Sewing Group” and to each and every person involved either with the groups or as individuals we are deeply indebted to everyone for your help and expertise.


“Many of these amazing women are considered vulnerable themselves and have been in isolation for weeks,” Harold said. “Most of them professional stitchers from days gone by, the speed at which they have been able to work is outstanding and the workmanship and quality coming back from them is absolutely impeccable.”


“This project has had a hugely positive impact on them in one way or another. As well as being physically unwell, many of them were feeling very down and isolated by the ongoing lockdown. The opportunity to use their talent and skill in this way has really brought new life to them.”


Harold and Alison have been operating a drop off and pick up service, distributing fabric to stitchers across the County Antrim and picking up dozens of pairs of completed scrubs just days later. 


Over 4,000 pairs of scrubs are now in the process of being distributed, with some having gone already to Antrim and Causeway Hospitals and a number of nursing homes in Mid and East Antrim, as well as in Lisburn and Belfast. 


More To Be Done


The McCloys are not content with providing scrubs during the current crisis. As Harold put it., “Over the years, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak we have benefitted so much from the NHS and care system. I think it’s fair to say we sometimes take it for granted, but the situation at the minute has shone a light on the tremendous work our Health & social care staff do, from hospital porters, cleaners, nurses and doctors. They are putting their life on the line every day for you and me, so both Alison and myself want to give back to our heros in any practical way we can.”


“We have already shipped many litres of hand sanitiser to needy recipients throughout Ballymena and the wider County Antrim area.


“The kindness of Village Blinds loyal customers, the wider Ballymena community and further afield who donated to our fundraising efforts is helping us to fund new, practical projects. We are currently waiting on delivery of materials to begin manufacturing face shields for frontline NHS staff and care workers. This vital piece of PPE will help protect those who protect us. It’s the least we can do.”


Harold and Alison are continuing to raise funds throughout the campaign, with new project being planned to help the NHS and local charities. Donations can be made by Paypal (harold22@hotmail.co.uk). For further information on other methods through which donations can be accepted, please email Harold McCloy on harold22@hotmail.co.uk 

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