Abigail Sheridan De Graaff – BEM award

Local resident Abigail Sheridan de Graaff was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queens’ Birthday Honours in June for the part she played in setting up and running the Warwickshire Scrubbers, a group formed to make and deliver PPE to local healthcare settings. At the beginning of the pandemic there was a severe shortage of PPE and Abigail saw the need arise in her local area from the NHS Trust hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies to community health teams and care homes. From the initial fundraising, procuring fabric, distributing fabric and patterns, collecting in the items to delivering over 25,000 items across the county it took a whole army of people.

“There were, of course, hundreds of other people involved who all stood up to help in whatever way they could in the strangest of circumstances,” said Abigail. “We all worked as a truly phenomenal team and it was an amazing thing to be part of. People who could sew made scrubs, headbands and laundry bags and those that couldn’t, helped by driving, delivering, cutting patterns or even supplying food!”

At one stage there were over 360 dedicated scrub makers and nearly 1000 people in the group. The scrubs were made in lots of different fabrics. There was, of course, the standard polycotton but people delved deep into their laundry cupboards and no bedding was safe. There were scrubs made from vintage floral bedsheets, Winnie the Pooh and superheroes – the paediatric teams loved the bright and cheerful sets. Shipston and the surrounding area was particularly well supported and lots of people were making scrubs and other items across the region.

“It was great to be able to supply the local GP surgeries and Ellen Badger Hospital with scrubs, bags and headbands as required,” she continued. “It’s brilliant to know that a lot of these scrubs are still being used today, 15 months after being delivered. One of the nurses at my surgery received a pair of scrubs made from Liberty fabric which make me smile when I see her at work! The strange thing is that although I started out with the intention of making scrubs myself, sewing is therapy after all, I didn’t make one set of scrubs because the coordination took all of my time!”

The British Empire Medal is a public recognition of meritorious civil service and Abigail will be presented with the medal at a ceremony later this year.

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