Local 5 Steward Employs Sewing Skills to Help Keep Coworkers, Customers Safe

As the COVID-19 crisis continued to spread, North Coast Cooperative food store employee and Local 5 Steward Stephanie Gurley knew that she had to take action. An accomplished seamstress who had recently purchased a high-end sewing machine, she joined a Facebook page that included volunteers that were making masks for “first responders”.

Using various fabric that she had on hand she began to work but quickly realized that her material, which included San Francisco Giants logos and other colorful designs, was likely too “busy” for police, firefighters and medical staff. Just as important, with recent updated guidelines recommending that the general population wear masks when out in public, she realized that no one was creating masks for frontline workers like her who worked in grocery stores.

“I knew what I had to do and went to work over the weekend creating masks for most of my nearly 200 coworkers at our two stores,” explains Stephanie.

Her fellow members were thrilled and grateful and nearly all are wearing the masks while on the job, initially to remind them not to touch their face, Stephanie explains, but after the release of the new guidelines, as part of an important health and safety protocol.

Word of Stephanie’s efforts quickly spread and thanks to donations of fabric from coworkers and distribution assistance from her Local 5 North Coast Director John Frahm, she has begun to create masks for workers at Safeway and other grocery stores in Humbolt County. She’s also giving guidance to other volunteers with sewing skills who want to get involved.

“It’s great fun to see my work in action and it makes me happy and proud to help my coworkers and other Local 5 members keep themselves and our customers safe during this difficult time,” she says.