The purple and teal-colored cotton fabrics were originally meant to be part of a quilt. Instead, they will help protect nurses and other healthcare workers at The University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC).
The colors weren’t chosen at random. Purple honors National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which began in 1981; teal symbolizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observed nationally in April since 2001. The fabrics were to be stitched together with panels featuring supportive messages from students, faculty, staff and others in The University of Toledo community to create a “Messages of Hope” quilt as part of UToledo’s “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, part of a nationwide effort to shed light on the experiences of sexual assault survivors and combat the myth that sexual violence is caused by a person’s choice of clothing.
But in March, as facilities and operations throughout UToledo shifted remotely in response to the growing threat of COVID-19 — including the format of the exhibit going to a virtual setting — the team in the University’s Title IX Office saw a different potential purpose for the energy and materials behind the quilt.
“We talked it over and quickly decided that cloth face coverings could have an immediate, meaningful impact at UTMC,” said Lindsay Tuttle, sexual misconduct prevention education coordinator for Title IX. “Our goal right now is to pull together as an institution, help our peers, and at the same time send a message in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault.”
That’s where volunteer Jennifer Kregel comes in. Kregel, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Perrysburg High School and friend of the Title IX Office, saw right away how the two bundles of fabric for the quilt could be repurposed. Along with her mother, Barbara Limes, and Jen Minard, an acquaintance from church, the three began trying patterns and fits to determine what would be most comfortable.
“We really wanted the coverings to be practical, something you could wear all day,” Kregel said. “Especially right now, it was nice to know we were helping people in need and making people feel safer in their jobs. And the colors to raise awareness of sexual assaults and domestic violence were a big part of that.”
“Bringing awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence is not just a day or a month, so finding positive ways to continue the conversation is essential,” said Vicky Kulicke, UToledo’s director for Title IX and compliance, and Title IX coordinator. “If the recipients of the face coverings share the meaning behind the colors, then the conversation and awareness continue.”
Ultimately, 40 face coverings were completed with the group’s materials and delivered to UTMC, where they will be sent directly to the teams of nurses, clinicians and other workers.
“We are providing the cloth coverings to any department on site that is in need,” said Jennifer Pastorek, senior supply chain director for UToledo’s Health Science Campus. “Since they’re required, many staff wear the cloth face coverings in before transitioning to their personal protective equipment (PPE) required in the clinical spaces, thus preserving the use of PPE. We are so very grateful for this community outreach and outpouring of support for our hospital and clinical teams.”