A stitch in time

Firmus Energy's very own 'Angel' of the North responds to PPE shortage...

Firmus Energy’s Marketing Manager Angeline Murphy scrubs in to help NHS staff on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis.

Angeline Murphy, Marketing Manager with natural gas company Firmus Energy, has been at the forefront of a campaign to produce scrubs for frontline NHS staff tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. A former competitor on the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee and regular sewing guru on RTE’s Today Show with Maura and Daithi, Angeline was inspired to join and set-up fundraising for NI Scrubs, a network of stitchers, in response to the growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Making light of the fact that she is currently on maternity leave (becoming a mum for second time just five months ago to Eoin, she is also mum to three year-old Luke) Angeline recognised the need for a concerted effort. “I am a passionate home stitcher and well known in Northern Ireland’s close-knit sewing community,” said Angeline.

“There was a Facebook group started by a girl from Omagh and she was searching for second hand scrubs. Then a friend of hers said I could stitch you up a pair. Later, I saw that on Instagram Elody Bridal in Newry had put up a story asking people to sew and I thought: ‘Oh yeah, I do that.’ I innocently enough started stitching up a few, then I put up a post on Facebook about it and there were hundreds upon hundreds of shares. I began stitching scrubs on my own back in late March, but the requests from NHS workers were flowing in and I soon realised the need to call in reinforcements. I’m fortunate to have thousands of followers on my social media channels and it only felt right to get involved in this stitching marathon. We are all in this together and I’m just doing what I can to support our NHS heroes in these terrible circumstances.” Amazingly, this self-confessed sewing addict saw the NI Scrubs’ ranks grow from 50 volunteer stitchers to 2500 in just THREE days. A GoFundMe page (Search for Scrubs Fabric Fund) set up to raise money for materials, also took little time to surpass the initial £500 target [which currently sits at over £30,000]. “I didn’t want people going out and spending money on fabric, I spent between £80 and £90 on fabric to make 10 scrubs. That’s not really feasible. That’s when the GoFundMe page started.”

Scrubbing in to help with a £5,000 donation was Angeline’s employer Firmus Energy. “I was thrilled to receive Firmus Energy’s whopping £5,000 donation which doubled my fundraising total at the time,” added Angeline. “It’s so important that the community responds to the needs of the healthcare workers who put themselves at great risk to help the patients suffering from Covid-19. With so many skilled craftspeople eager to throw a stitch, it was just a matter of getting materials to them. The kindness and generosity I’ve received from my friends, family and industry colleagues has been overwhelming. Now I am sending fabric and materials to every county up and down the country.”

Firmus Energy’s backing did not stop with that sizeable financial contribution. Company vans were commandeered as part of the support package, and colleagues freely gave of their time to ensure thousands of metres of fabric could be distributed to NI Scrubs army of handy helpers. “It’s crazy at the moment,” Angeline explained. “I just signed up to sew some scrubs and then it turned into the fundraising – then sourcing fabric and buying it – then distributing it out among all the sub groups. There’s now something like 15 sub-groups for NI Scrubs who dispatch the fabric to their stitchers like a production line. I’ve worked with Bedwin in Kilkeel and Collins Aerospace, who’ve cut fabric in bulk so people don’t have to cut at home. We have all the home stitchers along with the Zipyard in Newry and Armagh who have had their staff working around the clock.”

Sew much fabric, sew little time, you could say, and the result of this stitch-athon has been (at last count) a staggering 23,000 scrub sets, 12,000 masks, 3,000 headbands, and 21,000 bags. Firmus Energy’s Sales, Marketing and Customer Service Director, Paul Stanfield, expressed his company’s desire to play a part: “As the world faces this unprecedented challenge, Firmus Energy is focusing efforts towards supporting local NHS staff. We are committed to helping the communities we serve at this time of great need and we’re proud to be supporting Angeline in this vital project.”

Firmus Energy is a natural gas distributor and supplier with a strong track record of sponsorship and charity initiatives. The Antrim-based company raised £23,000 for Chest Heart and Stroke in 2019 and staff voted to make the Air Ambulance its charity partner for 2020. Additional donations can be made to Angeline’s fundraising efforts online via www.gofundme.com/f/search-for-scrubs-fabric-fund 

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