Volunteers spend MLK Day sewing sleeping bags for Missoula’s homeless

Kate McIver, The Confident Stitch owner, oversees the Blue Wrap Project on National Day of Service. (Renata Birkenbuel/Missoula Current)

Volunteer tailors took to the sewing machines at The Confident Stitch on Martin Luther King Day to transform sterilized hospital surgical wraps into roomy, comfy sleeping bags for the homeless.

As a traditional National Day of Service at The Confident Stitch, owner Kate McIvor tacked together about 20 volunteers to repurpose sturdy wraps that hospitals use to cover trays of sterile surgical instruments into clean, heat-retaining sleeping bags for the Poverello Center residents.

The Blue Wrap Project observes MLK and originated in communities like Baltimore before spreading to New Mexico, Florida and Montana.

Because of strict hospital rules, the wraps can’t be used to cover other sterile instruments, but they never come into contact with any potentially hazardous bodily fluids,” said McIvor, who partnered with Providence Hospital to rescue the discarded wraps and give them new life.

They’re insulated and waterproof,” she added. “In the cold weather, you’d probably want to have a blanket with them, but they are super lightweight, elastic and they fold easily.”

Although many wraps never come into contact with an unsterile environment, the hospital staff avoids taking chances. So many clean, unused wraps end up in the garbage.

We are excited to join other homeless shelters and hospitals across the country in easing the lives of those we serve,” said Gavin Wisdom, Poverello Center grant writer and development associate.

Josie Allred, 14, helps her mother Angela Allred measure and pin a sleeping bag transformed from a hospital surgical wrap. (Renata Birkenbuel/Missoula Current)

Several kids spent their MLK day off from school to learn the basics of cutting, measuring, stitching and working sewing machines in the back room of The Confident Stitch.

I think it’s really fun. This is my second time sewing,” said Abram Allred. He joined three other siblings and their mother, Angela Allred, in volunteering their time when they could be goofing off instead.

Social worker Barbs Schott sewed a pink and blue sleeping bag on her day off.

Sleeping bags are one of the neediest things for those suffering from homelessness,” said Schott. “This is a high need this time of year.”

A social worker who specializes in opioid response for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, Schott recognizes gaps in the system and hopes the community at large will chip in donations for materials to add to the Providence Hospital donations.

Since McIvor opened her shop four years ago, she has partnered with other community entities to sew something others can use.

We’ve partnered with Community Hospital to make heart shaped pillows for women who had breasts removed,” added McIvor. “We’ve partnered with the Missoula YWCA to make bibs and with the Humane Society to make dog beds.”

I’m sure we will only make a small dent in the need for these sleeping bags by sewing for one day,” said McIvor, “But I, along with my staff, hope to keep the momentum going throughout the year.”

McIvor and her staff plan to deliver the sleeping bags to the shelter later this month.

 Contact Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com.