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Fermanagh church volunteers turn defective shirts into scrubs


Eleanor Harpur, Church Mouse Shop manager

Eleanor Harpur, Church Mouse Shop manager

One of the scrubs

One of the scrubs

Eleanor Harpur, Church Mouse Shop manager

Members of a Co Fermanagh church have responded to the Covid-19 crisis by producing almost 1,600 medical scrubs for the NHS.

It all became possible after The Church Mouse shop in Enniskillen received a consignment of defective shirts prior to the lockdown.

The manager of the East Bridge Street store, which is run by Enniskillen Presbyterian Church, then thought it might be possible to use them in the quest for PPE.

And that is when Eleanor Harpur enlisted an army of volunteers to turn the sub-standard shirts into scrubs for two Northern Ireland hospitals and care homes in the Republic.

"Quite some time ago we received a large boxed up consignment of white shirts with minor defects that you wouldn't have noticed," she said.

"A large number of boxes had been sent to Operation Rescue in Ethiopia and we were able to sell some in the shop, but we still had a lot left over when we had to close in March because of the lockdown.

"Watching the news one night I wondered whether they would be of any use to the NHS at this anxious time."

Eleanor asked two church members, Alison and Gordon Annan, for guidance as the latter had already helped to distribute PPE across Ireland with the help of fellow bikers known as 'Bikers Coming Through'.

"Gordon told me the shirts, almost 1,600 of them, could be altered and made into scrubs, which was great news," she said.

"As a result Gordon delivered 440 shirts to Margaret Houston of NI Scrubs, a seamstress in Dromore, Co Tyrone, whose team of 60 home-working machinists removed the collars and cuffs.

"They sewed a V-shaped neckline cut into the front and made other alternations, which included sewing on pockets, to produce scrubs for the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen."

Eleanor told how "another 440 shirts went to Co Kildare by van, where Gordon met up with fellow bikers for the onward journey to Co Kerry and machinists there to make more scrubs for care homes in the area".

She added that the "final 700 shirts went to the machinists in Dromore again, where they were altered for use in the new Nightingale hospital in Belfast".

Eleanor said the delivery of the defective shirts was an example of God working in mysterious ways.

"Little did we know, when we received this large consignment of shirts, how useful they would actually become," she said.

"We are so grateful that we have been able to play a small part in helping those who are doing so much for us all."

Belfast Telegraph