Just shy of €17,000 was raised in just 48 hours to help Ardee-based Ardee Coach Trim manufacture and provide medical scrubs for frontline healthcare workers across the region – with new orders from the HSE set to extend the operation of making the clothing items at the temporary PPE plant in mid-Louth.
A family run business, Ardee Coach Trim usually deal in the supply of upholstery, coach respraying and engineering for all types of vehicles, including coaches, buses, trains and trams. Earlier in week, in response to a call on social media from locally-based nurses for help in making much needed scrubs and other supplies, the company felt they could help.
Since reaching out, and after a host of other local companies offered to supply materials, staff at Ardee Coach Trim have been working on manufacturing hundreds of sets of medical scrubs for use by health workers in HSE hospitals and clinics and in private settings. So far, over 500 have been made and supplied.
To help with their efforts, a GoFundMe page was set-up by the company. It raised an extraordinary €11,781 in less than 48 hours – in addition to an anonymous donation of a further €5,000 to help. The money allowed them to manufacture and supply those first 500 sets over three days this week to facilities including the Boyne Primary Care Centre and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda by Friday. The remaining funds raised will allow them to make up to 670 more, which are expected to be completed and distributed early next week.
Speaking to LouthNow.ie, Domhnall Lennon of Ardee Coach Trim said, “It’s been crazy. The plan was to do 800, that was what Maeve Hennessy and Rebecca Finn were looking for. There was some shortage and we saw an opportunity to try and help them out. We have all the equipment there and with donations of materials, we went ahead. We got scrubs from Rebecca and reversed engineered them by striping them down into templates and using the technology we have to digitise them and put them on to the cutting machine.”
Up to 80% of the workforce at Ardee Coach Trim remain on site to produce the scrubs, known as ‘Becks Scrubs’. Businesses such as Seamie Walsh Interiors, Kearney’s Ardee, Douglas Nurseries and The Fabric Shop offered up materials to be used to making the clothing, while John McCabe Motors and Farrell Furniture were among the first local businesses to offer financial support for the endeavour. The Wee County Vintage Club also donated money.
“Everyone is so willing to help. It’s unbelievable,” Domhnall continued. “It just shows the generosity of people. It shows how much we underestimate the generosity of people.”
Domhnall’s brother Eoin made appearances on LMFM’s Late Lunch programme with Gerry Kelly on Wednesday and Thursday this week, after each of which, the company was inundated with offers of funding, materials, manufacturing assistance and requests for scrubs.
Requests for clothing have come from hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and nursing homes as close as Ardee, Drogheda, Cavan and Bettystown and as far as Limerick, while the HSE have contacted the company to directly procure protective clothing and other materials. Coach Trim say these latest orders will keep their staff at work for a number of weeks.
“We have probably 80% of staff working,” Domhnall explained. “Some have gone home to their own countries and others are staying away for other reasons. One member of staff has a wife who is getting cancer treatment. He is staying away and that is fully understandable. A large number of our staff are foreign nationals. Three lads drove home on Saturday, to Romania. They couldn’t get any flights.
“At the moment, we can put out 200 a day but come Monday, we can put out 600 a day. That is because other staff are working on work for Irish Rail, the Dart, the Luas and Dublin Bus. That is another rush job, for all the social distancing.
“We’ve had people working nights and some friends have helped us too, to get through it all. We’re at full capacity. We would have closed up on Saturday if not for the work making scrubs or at least had a skeleton staff in to support Dublin Bus on any essential work needed,” Domhnall added.
In a social media post on Friday, announcing that the GoFundMe was to close having surpassed their target and with HSE orders incoming, Domhnall said, “There are enough quality manufacturers and companies in Ireland that could and can make all of these PPE items needed by the HSE and others. It’s at times like these that remind me of the slogan ‘Buy Irish’.
The sense of community and generosity engendered across Louth, but specifically in mid-Louth and Ardee over the last four days feels very Irish, indeed.