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Crafts for a cause: Canmore locals create ‘scrub bags’ for healthcare workers

Sample of scrub bags made by locals. SUBMITTED PHOTO.

CANMORE – A simple pattern found online is keeping some crafty locals busy and some healthcare workers a little safer.

Scrub bags with drawstrings made from cotton in which healthcare workers can toss scrubs after a shift is one way Canmorites are banding together during this global pandemic.

Local resident and former healthcare worker, Elsbeth O’Toole, said she first happened upon the concept of scrub bag-making in a Facebook group online.

“The project came out of a group of Alberta healthcare workers. I’m a former registered nurse and I’ve been part of the group for a while,” she said.

“I noticed some of the members were making cotton bags for themselves and for other workers, and from that [the] healthcare worker group grew a scrub bag group for all of Alberta. So for our region, I just started one locally so that anyone interested could participate.”

Essentially the movement offers those in isolation or staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus a way to help from home. The cotton bags equipped with a drawstring are washable so workers can toss their scrubs into them and the entire bag can go into the washing machine. The concept is to limit contamination as much as possible.

“The bags themselves, they’re drawstring cotton bags so healthcare workers can transport their worn scrubs or work clothes, minimizing contact with potentially unsafe laundry,” said O’Toole.

“Containing what might be infectious material and then the bag itself can be opened and tossed in the washer with the scrubs inside and the agitation of the washer itself will clean everything so it's minimizing contact and giving them hopefully a little more time.”

O’Toole began a group in Canmore called Scrub Bags for Bow Valley and has accumulated 32 members as of Wednesday (April 8). She’s become both the pick-up and drop-off point for the project locally, albeit modestly.

“I’ve never coordinated any effort other than taking care of my own patients when I was a nurse, so it's definitely something that’s new to me, but it’s holding my interest and making me feel like I’m contributing in some little way,” she said.

“It’s something positive to focus on when we’re all feeling like we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. While it gives you a feeling of productivity, it’s also a gesture of thanks for the people who are putting their lives on the line and risking their health, sacrificing time with their own families just to keep us all safe.

“It’s amazing how many people have come forward that wanted to help but didn’t know how – volunteering their time and materials.”

O'Toole said Canmore’s local quilting shop, The Sugar Pine Company, has been offering delivery for supplies should they be needed. In addition, she said the group has been well received in all areas in the Bow Valley, including Banff and the M.D. of Bighorn, where community members have donated time, money and materials.

For anyone interested in participating, whether a donation of money or fabric or actually making the bags, any questions can be sent to or community members can simply join the Facebook group. O’Toole said is where the pattern for scrub bags can be found.