The Mountain Press  

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WALDENS CREEK — Two sewing machines were buzzing along as members of the Mountain View Baptist Women’s Missionary Union created gowns and belts out of pillow cases and sheets.

The gowns were being created to be given to Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals and will be used when the department answers calls regarding methamphetamine labs.

Barbara Huff got the idea for the project after attending a WMU meeting in Gatlinburg earlier this year and learned about a group of women who made the gowns for the same purpose. She thought the women at her church could do the same thing and bring a little comfort to children and others who are dealing with an uncomfortable situation.

When the Sheriff’s Department gets a call about a meth lab, its Meth Lab Response Unit takes over the decontamination — or decon — process for everyone in the household. Unfortunately, that often includes children.

Everyone in the home has to be decontaminated, which includes a hosing down. They are then provided paper gowns to wear until clean clothing can be provided. The cotton gowns sewn by the Mountain View Baptist Church members will be a better alternative, Seals said.

Huff knew finding the materials for the gowns would be no problem.

“I’ve worked at the Sydney James Motor Lodge for 49 years, and I was telling them one day, we’ve got sheets that they give away,” she said. “If I can get those, we can make these garments for these kids.”

The sheets are clean, but have stains on them that make them unusable for the lodge.

“I presented it to the church and the ladies got together and sewed them for us,” Huff said.

The group started making the gowns in September and donated about two dozen last week. “But we’ve got more to make as you need them,” Huff told Seals.

“This is very good for us,” Seals said. “We’ll be able to store this in our Meth Lab Response Unit, and once we arrive on the scene and have this there, we’ll have the necessary garment for the children.”

The paper gowns the unit uses now are a one-size-fits-all variety, with the children being swamped in them.

“This will be more personable for the children once we encounter that situation,” Seals said. “It’s going to be much better. I’m sure these kids and even the parents, even though they are the ones we’re probably going to put in jail, they’ll be more appreciative that we’re trying to take care of the children. They’ll be very thankful, too.”

The image of a small child being in such an uncomfortable situation was one of the motivators for Huff the lead the project.

“I just couldn’t stand it,” she said. “That bothered me so much. I got a picture of a 4-year-old having to go through this.”

Many of the church members making the gowns were surprised at the need for them, but were happy to help out.

“We enjoyed it and were glad to do it,” said Anne Baker.

“I think it’s really great and think maybe some of the other churches could chip in,” Patty Huskey said.

The gowns they made this time are all from solid colored materials. But Huff said they were thinking about decorating some of them

“We thought about, maybe later, taking some of the sheets and let the kids draw on them,” she said.

“I think it was a tremendous idea,” said church pastor Jack Hitch, but he left the sewing to the ladies, offering a quick no when asked if he was allowed to sew any of the garments.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the work these ladies have done in providing these garments,” Seals said. “Not only will they be used by the sheriff’s office, because we respond countywide; we respond if necessary to all the cities.”