A couple, formerly from La Broquerie, faced a health scare and then relocated during the pandemic, but today the two continue to use their sewing machine to help others.

Two years ago, John Stein experienced the beginning stages of a heart attack. At the time, John and his wife Ingrid were living in La Broquerie. With John in the hospital in the spring of 2020, and the spread of COVID-19 rolling through the province, Ingrid took to her sewing machine to support their community. She made and gave away about 200 cloth masks to help others through the pandemic.

"Knowing that people with heart conditions have a tendency of contracting pneumonia and chest infections so much easier than others, I felt that by making masks and distributing them through the public for free, it was the best way that I could protect not only my family but others as well," explains Ingrid. "This was our way to help people who have family members that have a heart condition or any respiratory condition."

Stein made the first 100 masks free of charge for anyone who might want or need one. A close family friend worked at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach and knowing they were short of masks, Ingrid made 100 more to give to hospital staff.

"In the end, they were not allowed to use them but they gave them to their staff so they could take them home to their family members," she explains.

A year ago, the Steins moved to Killarney. They embraced sewing and opened up a new fabric store, Fabrics & Things. The community embraced them as well, especially when folks learned the couple was well-practiced with doing alterations.

"We've noticed now that there are a lot more people coming in," she says. "Instead of going out and buying a new jacket or new cover-alls, they're coming in and asking us to patch or repair them so they can continue wearing them. People are being more cautious financially today, and that's a good thing," shares Ingrid.

With a change in ownership of the building they are renting, the Steins are having to close their fabric shop, temporarily, later this spring.

"We're sad to close but we had a choice of either taking it all to our house and storing it there until we found a new location, or selling off as much as we can," says Ingrid. "So, right now we're selling our fabric at cost, so anyone looking for a really good deal, right now is a good time," she laughs.

Come May, the Steins will continue their clothing alteration business and selling notions from their home.

"Sometimes you just have to pivot," explains John, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Having served in the CAF for just under 11 years he knows first-hand how plans can quickly change and how one has to adapt and go forward. John served one tour in Bosnia, participating in the first NATO tour overseas into Bosnia in 1996, and worked alongside his fellow military members back in Manitoba during the 1997 flood.

Married for 28 years, the couple knows that it takes grit to work through struggles, including a two year pandemic that affects every part of life.

"We just have to look out for one another," shares John. "It is a tough time, but as Canadians we've all gone through tough times in the past. We've gone through wars, we've gone through pandemics. There's been pandemics before, maybe not in our time but in our forefathers' times, but this is our time now. We have to face this now, and we have to collectively come together and face this and remember that we're all in it together."

"We started this business out of the love of sewing, and it's in my blood. It's been in my family generations upon generations, so we're going to keep on helping our community as much as we can."