What started as a side-job to fill a community need has become so much more for Sudbury Steam Cleaners, inspiring the family-run organization to revamp its mask campaign to provide direct funding to local non-profits.
A little more than two months ago, the Nickel-city based laundry and dry cleaning organization began manufacturing masks with the promise that for every mask purchased, another would be donated. It was an overwhelming success.
The initiative allowed Sudbury Steam Cleaners to bring five full-time seamstresses back for mask production and another 15 employees for the gradual reopening of its depots to the public. Even with this help and that of co-owner Julia Haddad, she said it still took the team some time to catch their footing.
Orders were backed up to two weeks in both April and May, she said, now it's down to eight business days, but they are hoping to reach the point where they have masks in stock to meet community demand. She knows this is a product people want and need, especially as the province reopens.
Keeping up with requests has been challenging at times, especially given the fact that Haddad is also a full-time social worker at Health Sciences North, she said, but it has been worth it. In April, the organization was able to donate 1,100 masks to various organizations through the purchase of masks and monetary donations nominated through Sudbury Steam Cares.
This uptake included several orders from local businesses, including Share Sudbury, who purchased a sizeable bulk order for all staff at member locations, such as M.I.C, The Kouzzina, and Hardrock 42.
"Local businesses rely on the support of their community and from other businesses, and that’s been something that has been nice to see come out of the pandemic, is seeing people give that support."
Receiving countless requests for alternative forms of support, however, the team realized changes were needed to make the most impact on the community as possible. Ultimately leading to the decision to donate $1 of each purchase to a new non-profit or community group so long as manufacturing can be maintained, for production of masks or otherwise.
"Usually, during the year there are different times (where) organizations get more funds - in around the holidays, there’s always that big uptake. We figured, well why not help them during this time when there might be a little bit more of a lull in funds coming in."
This new plan was implemented in May, which through the purchase of 1,614 masks, resulted in Sudbury Steam making a $2,000 donation to the Pregnancy Care Centre and associated Infant Food Bank, following a minor top-up. June's recipient is Better Beginnings Better Futures.
The organization has a pre-existing relationship with both May and June's beneficiaries, said Haddad, which contributed to their selection. Aside from that, both organizations do admirable work in the community, she said, particularly for low-income families or those most vulnerable to hardship amidst the pandemic.
Once the pandemic, subsides, Haddad expects the demand for personal protective equipment to follow suit. But for as long as there is interest in the products produced by Sudbury Steam seamstresses, the program will continue.
"Whatever the seamstresses are making - if masks are a thing of the past in a couple of months - were happy to sell other items that our seamstresses make.
They’re all very talented and skilled and can make a lot of beautiful things."
For now, designing a new product line will be taking a back to the gradual reopening of Greater Sudbury depots to the public.Where, in addition to personal services, they also offer commercial services, actively being offered to businesses such as dental offices.
"Now more than ever, it's important to have these linens cleaned professionally," said Haddad's husband Chris.
Depots open as of June 1 are the following:
- Sudbury Steam Cleaners: 210 Walnut Street, 705-675-6445
- Sudbury Steam Cleaners: 976 Lasalle Boulevard, 705-560-0108
- Sudbury Steam Cleaners: 1769 Regent Street, 705-522-1415
- Bright Spot Cleaners: 3069 Old Hwy 69, 705-897-6095
- Uptown Cleaners: 1610 Regent Street, 705-522-0400
- Uptown Cleaners: 759 Barrydowne Road, 705-566-3550
Those looking to purchase a mask or scrub cap from Sudbury Steam Cleaners may do so over the phone, by email, or through the Sudbury Steam Cares website. Haddad would recommend all those with internet access to utilize the Sudbury Cares website though, to place their order more quickly and have the ability to pay in advance.
Find more information on Sudbury Steam Cleaners here.