In the first weeks of COVID-19, Sue Hanstad, Director of Local Outreach, asked Debbie Meagher to head up a team who would sew fabric face masks to distribute to those in need. Debbie reached out to Marianne Hooker to work with her to determine a simple pattern that could be used, and the women recruited about 15 who agreed to help just as we were suddenly all in quarantine.
Desperate requests for masks began to come in – first from a local assisted living center, who asked for 150. The number felt daunting, so the church put the word out for others to join this project. Within two weeks, the team grew to almost 200 individuals, and that first request was filled in 10 days.
In weeks that followed, word of available masks spread quickly as hospitals and agencies struggled to find adequate personal protection equipment. The team added a pattern to make masks for health workers with space to insert filters. Some non-sewing volunteers cut fabric, and others created ‘kits’ of materials, while sewing members spent hours at their sewing machines.
Debbie Meagher and the team watched in amazement. “Every time we received a request, we watched God provide,” she said. The team received some special requests, including the need for surgical caps for an intensive care unit. A small group of volunteers created the caps in just a few days. An audiologist requested masks that could be used when she met with hearing-impaired children. Debbie worked with Jane Black to create a pattern, and Jane used clear shower curtain material to create see-through masks.
When CDC recommended that all wear masks in public, the team put notices on the social media site Next Door, and placed bins of masks outside at church so they could be picked up at any time. Nearly 1100 fabric masks have been taken by our neighbors, and many left notes of thanks such as these:
“Thank you so much for mentioning these beautiful, well made masks on (Next door). I take care of seniors in their homes and most do not have any masks. They will surely need them when we go to doctor appointments, etc. Appreciate your church doing this!!! Stay safe and well. Sheryl”
“Our son is going back to work tomorrow and we wanted to make sure he has his own masks due to PPE supply issues for businesses. Thank you! Cheryl”
With personal protection supplies now readily available, the team will be ending production by the end of August. To date, the mask sewing team has distributed almost 9000 masks, to over 40 agencies such as Gleaners and CDC, multiple assisted living centers, hospitals, shelters, first responders, and agencies who care for children.
When God gives us opportunities, joy comes for both the giver and receiver. Robyn Marcotte expressed it this way: “The sewing team and sewing masks saved me. I was home trying to make sense of what was happening, and having the opportunity to jump in and do something that helped others was exactly what I needed.”