Paisley Express – Daily Record Online

During the summer months we’re used to seeing trees full of green leaves.

But in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, a new type of tree is beginning to grow branches across Renfrewshire.

Gayle Pollock picked up on the idea of setting up a mask tree outside her home in Howwood after she began making face coverings for key workers a couple of months ago.

But once the demand started to dry up, the 49-year-old – who works as a unit leader for 1st Howwood Guides and Semple Rangers – needed to find a new way of using a huge collection of fabric donated to her by the community and fellow Guiders.

And now, villagers who need to protect themselves when going to the shops or on public transport can now pick up one of Gayle’s homemade masks from her makeshift clothes-horse tree and leave a charity donation for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).

But the quirky trend hasn’t stopped there. After just a couple of days of having the mask tree up, the idea spread to Paisley, where Steph Giles has started to hang some of her face masks on a real tree in Fountain Gardens.

Gayle, who has made around 850 masks, said: “It all started 10 weeks ago when I was approached by a local taxi driver who said he needed 60 masks for his staff.

“So I made 60 for him and when he came to pick them up he said he’d had a call from some care homes who needed them, so I got started on that.

“So it all kind of stemmed from there; I would make the masks and he would pick them up and give them out to whoever needed them.

“About two or three weeks ago it started to slow down though and I had put up a sign asking for donations of fabric. So I had all this fabric and I thought I had to do something with it.

“I then came across mask trees on Facebook, so I went ahead and registered one in Howwood and on the first day I took £70 in donations.

“The community have been absolutely amazing. One lady said to me she couldn’t sew but she felt by donating something to me she’d taken part and helped someone else. Every little bit helps.”

Steph Giles at her mask tree in Fountain Gardens, Paisley. Picture by Contracted Freelance Andrew Neil

Gayle came across the Community Mask Tree initiative online after joining a group of sewers called Maskmakers UK when she was making face coverings for key workers.

The scheme allows anyone to register their tree, and it will then be placed on a Google map showing the locations of all the mask trees across the UK.

Steph hung up her masks in Fountain Gardens for the first time last Friday to raise money for the Purrple Cat Cafe in Glasgow and said it was a great success.

She said: “It was a fun day and I engaged with lots of people. Some people donated really generously.

“It’s all about making sure people have access to reusable face coverings.”

Gayle will be continuing to put up her mask tree outside 28 Kilnknowe Cottages in Howwood, while Steph will be back at her tree in Fountain Gardens on the corner of Caledonia Street and Blythswood Drive from 12pm to 4pm this Friday.

To find out more about setting up a mask tree, visit https://communitymasktrees.org/

-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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