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Stick Chicks knit support for frontline workers

First year business management student, Kimberley Coldwell, has combined her knitting talents and business acumen to create a charity that supports frontline staff at local hospitals. The charity, called Stick Chicks, has more than 230 knitters and has made more than 5500 mask bands to be worn on the back of doctors’ and nurses’ heads to prevent personal protective equipment (PPE) from rubbing behind their ears.  

NHS staff often have to wear the equipment for 12 hours or more which can cause rubbing and pain. The knitted bands are designed to make the PPE more comfortable for hospital staff.  The demand for the bands has exploded beyond Kimberley’s imagination.  

“Our masks have been supplied to hospitals, residential homes and community carers throughout Shropshire,” said Kimberley.  “After an appeal for donations for buttons in the local newspaper, on BBC Radio Shrosphire and BBC West Midlands evening news, we have received requests for bands from all over the UK.  We are now positively encouraging the formation of other knitting groups to support their local areas.” 

Kimberley, along with her mother and mother-in-law, started knitting baby items for maternity and neo-natal units in local hospitals three years ago. Unable to keep up with demand, she set up a Facebook group, Stick Chicks, in February of this year to encourage local knitters to get involved.  The response was fantastic. Shortly after it started, the group had collectively ramped up production and donated hundreds of hats, incubator blankets, booties, cardigans and ventilator hats that have been gratefully received at local hospitals.  

As several of the Stick Chicks work within the NHS, Kimberley became aware of how uncomfortable the face masks that have become part of the required uniform for keyworkers during the pandemic were. The thin, elastic bands that hold face masks in place, rub painfully behind the ears when attached for hours at a time.  

Recognizing that they could provide a solution, one group member developed a pattern for a knitted cotton mask band that sits at the back of the head, with a button on each end that the PPE face mask bands could be attached.  With the Stick Chicks mask bands, keyworkers had a comfortable band on the back of their head instead of thin, abrasive mask arms rubbing behind their ears.  Voila – one annoying and persistent problem potentially solved, but there were obstacles to overcome.

As the Stick Chick bands were to be used in a clinical setting, Kimberley contacted the Infection Control Team at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust to discuss their design and ensure that the finished product would not pose an increased risk of spread of the coronavirus. She was told that as long as the yarn could be washed at high temperatures, the bands could be used.

The next challenge was sourcing material, as many online retailers had closed and those that were open were projecting long lead times for delivery. Kimberley was able to source 100% cotton yard from a local store that allowed the knitters to begin the new product immediately.  Kimberley set up a Just Giving page for donations and put out an appeal in local media for donations of buttons. 

Then she had to work on logistics during a national lockdown. She set up a rota to deliver yarn to knitters’ doorsteps and collect completed bands.  As the Stick Chicks have continued to grow, Kimberley has delegated collection areas to other members, who have been very supportive. 

“The modules that I have studied at UCS have been particularly useful in marketing The Sticks Chicks brand and compiling financial statements that detail monies in and expenditures, “ said Kimberley.  

Trina Roberts, Lecturer in Business, applauds Kimberly’s efforts: “What a fantastic achievement and in such a short timeframe!  Kimberley perfectly illustrates how business students have innovation, enterprise, business acumen, as well as community spirit, and how they can use their business skills to do good in times like this.”

Many of the recipients of the bands have sent thank you cards and photographs of the bands in use (see pictures).  The bands have also had an unexpected benefit for members of the Sticks Chicks, many of whom are staying safe at home, by providing them with something positive to focus on during these troubled, isolated times.

“Everyone has shown such kindness to me, to each other and to our cause,” said Kimberley. “I will be forever grateful that during some of the toughest of times, surrounded by worry, uncertainty and loneliness, we found laughter, friendships and community spirit by working together to help others.”

Due to the Stick Chicks success, Kimberley has registered the group as a charity. 

“We’re keen to support where we can really, if anybody else needs them, they can certainly get in touch and we’d be happy to provide as many as we can,” said Kimberley.

For more information about the mask bands or the group, contact Kimberley at thestickschicks@gmail.com

If you wish to donate money to the group to help fund their efforts, visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-sticks-chicks-knitting-amp-crochet-group

 

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