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Skin care donations from Williamsburg farm help soothe healing hands

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Constant hand washing can cause dry, painfully chapped skin, and personal protective equipment can chafe health care workers wearing it.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, news and social media have shown the physical toll health care workers face while battling the front lines.

One farm near Williamsburg decided to help by donating skin care products to them. “As we began hearing from our friends who are medical professionals that their hands were extremely irritated—even to the point of bleeding—from the excessive hand washing required during this outbreak, we knew that our products would help protect their skin,” said Kerry Messer, whose family owns Sweethaven Lavender.

When the farm had to cancel this May’s Sweethaven Lavender Festival Days due to social distancing restrictions and the stay-at-home order, Messer got the idea to start a donation program called Convert for the Courageous. In lieu of refunds, festival ticket holders could choose to convert their $15 tickets into $20 worth of skin care donations.

“We’re in our first year of business, so we’re not in a position to be able to donate as much as we’d like to on our own,” Messer said. “Not only did hundreds of ticket holders choose to bless our medical professionals, but their selflessness and notes of encouragement brought us hope in a dark time.”

Sweethaven has a line of creams and salves made from lavender grown on the farm. So far, Messer said, they’ve donated close to $7,000 worth of products to health care workers at four area hospitals—helping over 300 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and others directly treating COVID-19 patients.

Messer is a former client of the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability, an affiliate of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. Julia Clark, the foundation’s executive director, said Messer’s actions are “a great example of a farmer sharing her time, talent and products with those who need it most during this unprecedented time. Thanks to her generous customers and Kerry’s dedication to serve others, she has turned a hardship for their farm—being forced to cancel their largest event—into a blessing for the local health care system staff.”

Skin care donations are one of the many efforts to help people during this crisis, as businesses and organizations use their resources to share in creative ways.

Emily Brown, a registered nurse at Riverside Regional Hospital in Newport News, received a Sweethaven donation and delivered additional skin care products to colleagues.

“This gesture was a pick-me-up for all health care workers who have been working hard during COVID-19,” Brown said. “It’s given everyone a sense of appreciation during this difficult time.”

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