VOICES OF DAVIDSON
GRASSROOTS GIVING: CLTgivePPE + Davidson Sewing Angels
Tracey W. Ratté, NC
The Well for Health
Davidson resident Tracey Ratté is a holistic nutritionist and practitioner at The Well for Health in Davidson and board member of the Davidson Farmer’s Market.
Tracey explains, “I was one of six women that launched this movement, started with urgency by Dr. Sheila Natarajan. I got involved because she helped me understand the need, and we are also friends and work colleagues. These six comprised the management team at CLTgivePPE, and along with many other volunteers and paid partners, teamed up over the six months we were in formal operation. English Griggs was our most valued volunteer, giving her time and extreme talents most generously. She was a huge gift to our efforts, and now a dear and trusted friend.”
How did you become involved in the health field?
I grew up working in my father’s family medicine practice, so I have always been around healthcare. I went to college for commercial interior design, and it wasn’t until I became a patient of famed New York Times bestselling functional medicine doctor, Dr. Mark Hyman, that I considered going into Holistic Nutrition.
The amazing changes that took place in my health after I started working with Dr. Hyman and his nutritionist, Kathe Swift, prompted me to make a career change. Kathe Swift became a mentor and guided me into a holistic nutrition program and career.
What is this organization?
CLTgivePPE (Charlotte Gives Personal Protective Equipment) is a grassroots organization that we started in response to the desperate need for PPE in the Charlotte area at the beginning of the Pandemic. Through it all, the movement was lauded by doctors, hospitals, and patients alike.
Is it part of a national movement?
No, it is just the Charlotte region and very grassroots.
How did you get involved?
One of the doctors I work for (Dr. Sheila Natarajan, a Davidson College grad and valedictorian of her class) called me to see if I knew of anyone who would sew masks for healthcare workers. She was hearing horror stories from frontline doctors she knew and wanted to help. I started recruiting sewers from Davidson and surrounding areas. We called them Our Sewing Angels. We also recruited four other founding members and had a movement, a six woman organization.
What kinds of equipment do you produce and how?
We made 1000’s of masks, gowns, jumpsuits, face shields, etc. with the help of community sewers and volunteers. We raised about $100,000 that we used to purchase PPE. We also took donations of equipment, PPE, money, gloves, googles, face shields, etc.
Tell me about the Davidson contingent.
The Davidson contingent was made up of me because I live here. I also recruited sewers from Davidson and Charlotte. English Griggs became our lead sewer, and she did many special projects for us. Her help and talents were invaluable! As things progressed, we ended up with hundreds of community sewers from the Davidson area.
Any particularly heartwarming stories that come to mind as an outgrowth of this?
We had one extremely talented sewer and pattern maker who lived in a care facility. She had formerly been homeless and was still struggling with mental health issues. She said that helping with our organization gave her a reason to live and a new appreciation for life. After we got very focused on what we were producing and how she could help us, we were able to pay her for her work. Therefore, we were also helping her out of a bad situation.
The entire effort was supported by so many lovely people ready to help in the community. Every call to action was met with willing strangers ready to sew, donate, transport, organize. It was completely heartwarming, and we were happily overwhelmed with support from our neighbors.
Another wonderful memory involved English Griggs driving her sewing machine down to Charlotte to set up on Dr. Natarajan’s sidewalk (socially distanced) to sew Haylard masks. These were being fit tested to Atrium standards by Dr. Natarajan as soon as English finished a mask. Time was critical at that point, every hour counted to try to get the N-80’s we were making to the frontlines.
How did you all organize and communicate to create this highly productive operation?
We all had our pieces of the organization that we managed, and we communicated with weekly Zoom calls. It was very organic how the right people fell into the right jobs. We had no time to plan or strategize. We literally were building the plane as it was flying. We all felt an extreme sense of responsibility and urgency. For the first few months of the pandemic, all six of us put our regular jobs on hold and worked CLTgivePPE full-time.
Any final thoughts about the intrinsic rewards of giving back?
Contributing at a time that felt so helpless was a great distraction and allowed all of us to feel useful at a time of desperate need.
Andrea Nordstrom Caughey
Andrea Nordstrom Caughey is a magazine editor and lifelong writer who hit the jackpot moving to Davidson from California.