Clinical Center News
Spring 2020

NIH staff awarded for surgical cloth sewing initiative to "Spread the Warmth"

Charlotte Langner, Elizabeth Aliberti, Carrie Wellen, Arman Niknafs, Rosalie Nolen, Celeste Cravalhon and Kathryn Johnston work on sewing blankets
Charlotte Langner, Elizabeth Aliberti, Carrie Wellen, Arman Niknafs, Rosalie Nolen, Celeste Cravalhon and Kathryn Johnston work on sewing blankets.

A project to transform surgical cloth into blankets for the homeless has been recognized for its contributions to the community. Founded by Clinical Center Operating Room staff, the "Spread the Warmth" initiative repurposes surgical cloth into blankets. The blue fabric, which wraps sterilized instruments and is hygienic, would usually end up as medical waste.

The initiative received two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) "Green Champion" Awards in April 2020. The awards honor outstanding sustainability projects throughout HHS. The Spread the Warmth Initiative received a "Good Neighbor" award and a Green Hero Video Outreach award. Last year, the project also won a 2019 NIH CC CEO Award for reducing the operating room’s footprint, supporting the community and giving to those in need through innovation.

Staff volunteer their time during off-hours to sew the cloth into blankets and donate them to those experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County, Md. Ninety-six blankets have been delivered since the project began.

"The blue wraps are water resistant, durable and warm," said Carrie Wellen, the surgical technologist who began the project. Her hope is this project continues to grow and that other hospitals will embrace this effort.

- Mickey Hanlon, Debbie Accame

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