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In this season of giving, surgical services employees at Mercy Medical Center-Clinton have found a creative solution to give the perfect gift to those in need, while at the same time finding a use for material that would otherwise be thrown away.

“It’s just called ‘blue wrap,'” said Leigh Anne Piper, Mercy’s director of perioperative and cardiac services. “We get it in sheets and use it after our surgical supplies are cleaned and sterilized. The wrap is only used to cover the sterilized supplies until it is time to use them in the operating room.”

The waterproof, plastic mesh material would normally be thrown away after use, according to Piper. “We’ve always looked for something that we could do with it,” Piper said. “It’s such a sturdy fabric that throwing it away seemed wasteful.”

That’s when she presented the surgical services team with an idea and from there, it grew.

“I found online that some people made things with the blue wrap and that’s when I mentioned it to an employee in our department who took the wrap home and tried sewing the material to see how easy it would go together,” said Piper. After that proved successful, the idea for blessing bags took hold.

“We thought that if we could sew these together in a bag, we could fill them with items that could help some of our patients who are homeless or in need of basic supplies,” said Piper.

Once it was determined that the bags could be sewn, Piper and her team arranged a sewing night at Mercy. Employees were invited to bring sewing machines for a work session to put the bags together; 24 employees participated in the session.

Donations for items to place in the bag also generously poured in from departments across Mercy and an assembly line was set up in early December where employees could volunteer over lunch to fill bags. Each blessing bag contains a bottle of water, a blanket, hat, gloves, socks, toiletries, flashlight, food and a reference list to find help if needed. More than 108 bags were created and filled and are now ready to be given to patients in need.

“This project really demonstrates how we serve our faith-based Mission at Mercy,” said Amy Berentes, vice president of patient care, adding “not only do we provide care to those who come to us, but this project demonstrates how we live our faith and extend our care and compassion to those in need. The added benefit is that we are being good stewards of our resources, finding a meaningful use for material that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. I am proud of everyone who participated in any way in this project.”

Piper admits that it exceeded her expectations on how well the idea for the project took off and how inspired employees were to help. “As an organization, we live our mission every day in what we do, but it was absolutely heartwarming to see how everyone wanted to help. I am so proud to work at Mercy.”

The bags will be provided to any patient that any employee feels may need one. Piper credits her surgical services department and the entire Mercy team for the assistance in this project.  “I have had many colleagues tell me that they are excited to be a part of the project and really feel that these bags may make a difference in someone’s life.”

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