When the unprecedented demand for face masks and visors appeared overnight at the beginning of April, it didn’t take keith Schmechel of Orrell Lodge No. 8371, in the Province of West Lancashire, long to design and begin production of hundreds of them to distribute to the NHS.
How Keith came to be in a position to rise to such a challenge is a bit of a tale. As a long serving Police Officer, illness struck and Keith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the same time he enjoyed a successful part time role with Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club, where he was coach and head of their scholarship scheme. As his illness got worse, he was forced to take early retirement after 27 years in the police, and later leave his post at Wigan Warriors. It was a devastating blow, but he is proud to have signed and coached so many first team international players.
After retirement and sitting at home watching daytime television for a few weeks, he decided that he needed an interest (especially when his wife dropped a big basket of ironing at his feet). He bought an industrial laser and cutter machine and set about learning how it worked. As he progressed, he invested in other industrial equipment that allows him to manufacture embroidered, printed and engraved products. Keith now operates from his converted double garage at his home in Wigan, and on a not-for-profit basis invests any money raised from his creations into purchasing better equipment and materials, with products being gifted to various charities. So, what started out as a donation to the midwives at Ormskirk Maternity Unit of 16 baby grows, to identify babies who were born on Christmas Day 2019 and New Year’s Day 2020, became a race to provided essential PPE when the pandemic broke out.
Both Keith and his wife Sue wanted to help and it was fortunate that they were in a position to use his laser cutter and embroidery machines. Keith and his wife were happy to cover the cost themselves, but the members of Orrell Lodge are always looking at ways in which the Lodge may be able to assist. As well as PPE, Keith is presently embroidering 39 fleeces for the Rheumatology Dept at St Helens NHS whilst looking for other good causes within the NHS care sector to support.