Finding purpose in a crisis


At the Flag Shop Nova Scotia, no piece of fabric is thrown away. When designing custom flags, we are often left with scrap material – leaving us with a wide array of fabrics in small pieces. I never imagined that these pieces would come to life as the most important and central creations leaving our doors, as they have in recent months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When a friend in the business community approached me to design a thank you flag for health care workers, I jumped at the opportunity. As a former nurse, I know the pressures of caring for those most vulnerable in our community, and also how far a thank you can go to brighten your day.

The more we spoke about it, the more I was inspired to do something bigger. And that’s how the idea to create masks was born. I reached out to the QEII Foundation and made plans to donate part of sales to the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund.

We thought – what a nice way to help people locally – and stay engaged as a small business facing a time of lights-off, doors-closed, and events canceled.

A caveat of the pandemic is entering the unknown. We have all been living in a time of great uncertainty – forced to operate one day at a time, waiting on provincial announcements and trying our best to stay grounded.

I noticed similar shops standing down in the early days of the pandemic, but in a moment of courage, I decided to go for it. My EdD was focused on the role of education and leadership in organizational change – and we had no idea how we’d be living those changes and adapting business the way we are today.

We committed to this project thinking we might make 10 or 20 masks a day. In the first three days we had orders for more than 1,000 – and we worked around the clock to fulfill them.

With less than half of my usual production staff onsite – my family jumped in to help in any way they could.

My husband has become an expert pleater, my daughter, completing most of the finish work. My granddaughter, who works part-time in the shop, has been taking masks home to continue working away in her evenings. My son is our spreadsheet expert, calling customers and managing orders. We are happy to do it. It’s hard to describe how it feels to have an active role – to be able to do something tangible to help our community.

And people have been so grateful – just appreciative that we’re open, and eager to chat. Relationship building has always been a core aspect of our business. All this time in isolation, all the tragedy our province has faced… it has highlighted how meaningful human-to-human interaction really is. If I can leave someone with a bit of goodwill as they leave the shop, I go home a bit happier

When people come together with a common goal, anything is possible. Community champions like Debbie step up in the most creative ways to make a difference in the lives of Atlantic Canadians and now we can make an impact on health care from the comfort of our own homes. Join the movement and support health care with a virtual fundraising campaign. Learn more >