Happy to Help: Fountainview at Gonda Member Sews Protective Gear for Caregivers
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Happy to Help: Fountainview at Gonda Member Sews Protective Gear for Caregivers

Jun 9, 2020

When Judy Fenton heard about the shortage of protective gear for healthcare personnel, she knew she could contribute, but did not know where to start.

"I was trying to figure out how to get involved," says Fenton, who lives at Fountainview at Gonda Healthy Aging Westside Campus. Then she learned that there was a need right in her own backyard when Charlette Ofrecio, executive director at Gonda, told her that Jewish Home staff lacked protective masks.

Fenton eagerly jumped in to help. "The Jewish Home has been so good to me and I appreciate the staff so much," she says.

Adept at sewing, Fenton borrowed a friend's sewing machine and got to work. "I always sewed for fun," she says. "I used to make my daughters' clothes for fancy occasions such as weddings and proms."

Now she sews protective gear, estimating that she has produced 40-50 cloth masks.

Toward the end of March, staff at the Home began to realize that there was a shortage of disposable gowns. Prices were skyrocketing. Kathleen Glass, executive director of the Home's Eisenberg Village campus, came up with a solution: Sew long sleeves onto traditional hospital gowns.

Soon, staff and their friends and family were sewing gowns. And the Helping Hands campaign was born.

Ofrecio told Fenton about the Home's "Helping Hands" campaign, which distributes medical gown sewing kits throughout the community, Fenton quickly and enthusiastically volunteered to help.

Volunteer Services Director Stacy Orbach posted the Home's need for gowns onto various online sewing groups. Over thirty local women answered the call, and so far have created 1,000 gowns. "The community really stepped up," Orbach says, adding that completed gowns are still flowing into the Home on a weekly basis. Orbach reports that one volunteer has committed to keep sewing gowns until the Home reaches its 3,000-gown goal.

Fenton has also joined the cause, firing up her sewing machine to sew the sleeves, which she then attaches to the gowns. She spends a few hours a day sewing, listening to music as she sews.

"It's something to do as we shelter in place," Fenton says. "I feel like I'm contributing as I can't volunteer anywhere right now. Sewing makes me feel like I'm doing something to help the community."

Public service runs in her family. Her grandson in Minneapolis used his Bar Mitzvah money to purchase a 3D printer and is making face shields for a Jewish senior facility near his home. In addition, her granddaughter in New York launched "Eats and Beats" for healthcare workers. A DJ performs over Zoom while they feast on donated meals. "I'm proud of my family," Fenton says.

And it's also gratifying to see Jewish Home caregivers wearing the items she sewed. "The Jewish Home has been so good to me and I appreciate the staff so much," she says. "When I recognize them wearing something I made, it makes me feel so happy!"

To join the Helping Hands campaign or to help out in other ways, please contact our Director of Volunteer Services Stacy Orbach at 818-774-3116, or Stacy.Orbach@jha.org. Orbach will coordinate the gown distribution.

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