Wakefield Soroptimists use their sewing skills to help health workers

A group of women with a social conscience have been safely helping the community despite the strictures of lockdown.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 5:00 pm
Members of Soroptimist International of Wakefield have had to have their social meetings via Zoom since lockdown.

Normally Soroptimist International of Wakefield members aim to improve the lives of women and girls with education and access to health treatment.

But since the coronavirus outbreak in late March they have been helping people in a variety of ways.

They have made face masks, hospital scrubs, wash bags for care homes and have made cloth models for hospital physiotherapists to help them demonstrate exercises virtually.

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Soroptimist International of Wakefield president Linda Phillips has been sewing for Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and for care homes.

President Linda Phillips is one of those who has used her sewing skills to help those working in the health sector.

She has made sets of scrubs for Pinderfields Hospital and was part of a small team who made 100 laundry bags for care homes in the Wakefield District.

Linda said: “I belong to club in Ackworth called the 74 Club, a social group. I asked our secretary to put out an appeal for the fabric to make laundry bags. We were inundated with duvet covers, sheets and curtains. We got an unbelievable amount of fabric. It was a fantastic response.”

“Within two days we had two massive bags of donations and what was left I will take to a charity shop when they get back in synch.”

Maureen Garfoth has made cloth dolls to help physiotherapists demonstrate exercises.

She added: “I made 50 laundry bags and four sets of scrubs. Myself and another lady from the 74 club made the bags. We made a hundred in total and I took them to local care homes because they needed them. I took them to homes in Pontefract and one in Knottingley.”

Other Soroptimist members, like Annette Taylor have made facemasks. While Sally Drummond and Amanda Potts have made pairs of crocheted hearts for Pinderfields Hospital. Linda added: “The idea there was the patient had one heart to hold and the relative had the other one as a source of comfort as they couldn’t visit them.”

Perhaps the most remarkable effort was by member Maureen Garforth who answered an unusual call from physiotherapists from the Children’s Therapy Services at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust. Soroptimists said the physios were unable to undertake home visits to young patients because of lockdown. But creative Maureen made two cloth dolls with bending arm and leg joints, which can be used virtually to show parents how they can perform exercises that aid their child’s mobility.

Linda added: “It’s novel and I’ve never heard of it before. I think its brilliant, even in this day and age.”

Members have tended the grave of Wakefield artist Louisa Fennell for years.

It has been an eventful start, to say the least, to Linda’s presidential year in office. It was due to start in April when she was to receive the chain of office formally from outgoing president Judith Alce at the annual general meeting. But that had to be cancelled along with many other planned events.

The club’s executive committee is due to meet virtually this week virtually to discuss, among other things, how to return to normal. Linda, is hoping to resume face-to face meetings in the autumn. She said: “We have got to decide when we are going to get back to a real life. We have got to make a decision here. I am aiming for September. I would love us to be back in September and I really don’t see why not now. If we can go to a pub with lots of people then surely we could have a meeting in a room with 20 of us. But I have to check that through, obviously.”


Soroptimists in Wakefield, like many community groups, have kept in touch via Zoom during lockdown.

President Linda Phillips described the video conferencing facility as a great way of maintaining social contact with its members, some of whom are in their early 90s.

She said: “We have been keeping in touch quite well with the magic of Zoom. It’s been a godsend, actually. Even though we have got a few elderly members we have got everybody on email and Zoom, and so forth, which is brilliant.”

The system was set up for members by treasurer Sally Drummond and her husband Mike. The last virtual meeting they held featured 18 out of its 24 members.

Linda added: “It’s been amazing. We did a regional Zoom meeting for Yorkshire and there were 54 of us on there. Quite a few people emailed me after the first Zoom meeting saying how fantastic it was to see everyone again. We were stuck in doors for weeks and loathe to go anywhere. You could just see from everybody’s faces on the screen that they were so pleased. It was lovely the first time we did it, and we have done a few since then.”

And members of the group’s executive committee were due to link up virtually early this week discuss plans for the future, including when they could meet up again face-to-face.

For more information about the club please see their website: sigbi.org/wakefield.