“I’m not sewing wedding gowns, but we are getting good products out there to people who have needs. I’m very honoured to have the privilege and ability to help like this.”

Meredith BrookingsThe Condo Store, together with Michael “Pinball” Clemons, is proud to feature this week’s hero, Meredith Brookings, who was nominated by Beth McWhorters. Meredith is a seamstress in Whitby and began started making masks and other PPE for hospitals and any other groups that were in need. She had just opened up her own business prior to the shutdown and decided to pivot and use her sewing skills to get this equipment out into the front lines.

Meredith’s story is about doing whatever you can to help in a time of need. Michael “Pinball” Clemons talked with Meredith this week and had this to say:

“Having a facemask is essential to reintegration. You’re not just putting material together, you are putting families back together. You’re literally stitching back together people’s lives.”

Here is the transcript of the interview. Please join us in celebrating Meredith Brookings and all of #TorontosEverydayHeroes.

TCS: Hi Meredith, nice to meet you, can you tell us a bit about your past few months

I opened a store to tailor bridal gowns and all formal wear. Weddings and all gatherings for celebrations are prohibited so we were not able to start our business.

We started out with one request for masks from Michael Garron hospital to make “a couple masks” and it blew up from there. Myself and my team, we know how to sew, and that has proven to be a needed skill that not a lot of people can do. So, we are just getting our hands going really fast and getting them done and trying to get as much product out there to the front lines.

It started with 10-20 masks on a Wednesday and then by that weekend we had thousands of requests for materials. We originally started a donation page on Facebook, and the requests are coming now from all over the country.

So, we are in the business of PPE now and that will be the case until weddings can commence again. We are proud and happy to be able to help.

TCS: So, you opened up your business right before the shutdown, can you tell us about your plans pre COVID-19??

I’ve been tailoring wedding gowns for 15 years and decided that now was my time to open up my own store, under my own roof. So we got everything ready in February knowing that bridal season is strongest beginning in March through the spring. Then weddings and gatherings, as well as businesses, were shutdown. That was a very tough situation, being such a new business, but I think it also allowed us to pivot pretty quickly and get these requests handled without too much worry about the primary business and clients.

TCS: Beth McWhorters nominated you as a Toronto hero, how does that make you feel

The fact that Beth nominated me makes me feel so honoured and I am so honoured and grateful to have the skills to help people in need.

TCS: Was this your dream for a long time

YES! I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little girl. And then in the early new year I found this location, right in the perfect location, in my home town of downtown Whitby, my home town dream!

TCS: Is your sewing still going strong? What details about those that you are helping would you like to share?

We were doing a few hundred at the beginning, we actually weren’t counting, but we are in the thousands now – all across the country. We probably do about 500 a day with a team of 2 people (myself and my head tailor). We sew all day and then take the pieces home at night to cut them when I am with my family taking care of them, in order to save time, so that we can sew more items

Bridal gowns are so intricate to create, while these PPE are fairly straight-forward, so we are confident that we can get a lot done if we just keeping working and go fast.

We are still going strong, but its different now. In the beginning, it was protection for workers on the front-lines and now the bulk of the requests are from businesses, as we move towards opening up more stores, looking for protective gear for their employees and customers. Specifically, fire departments, medical offices, dentists, etc. Next is seeing if we can help with whatever the school system will need for children potentially returning to schools in the fall, we will see what happens there, but we will be ready if needed.

TCS: The Helen Keller Center called, tell us about that challenge??

When they reached out to us, their difficulty was obvious, with lip-reading, you need to be able to see the person’s mouth. They were having trouble finding seamstresses with the right materials and tailoring skills, but we were able to find a way. So we designed a mask that gives you the ability to lip read, and now those have been created and we ship them across the country.

Check out our other weekly featured heroes:

David Shellnutt
Jeremy Zuker
Masako Katsuki