By Deb Malewski
— Many area sewers have threaded their sewing machines, sharpened their scissors and volunteered their time and talent to make protective fabric masks for frontline health care professionals. Last month, these medical professionals were facing dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). Homemade face masks are considered supplements to PPE by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
A group headed by an Eaton Rapids woman has been hard at work making masks. Eaton Rapids Medical Mask, a group on Facebook, has made close to 7,000 masks says group leader Laura Anne Hall. In addition, they are making “ear savers,” which protect the ears from the pull of the masks. A group of seamstresses have started working on scrub caps, also.
“There are approximately 40 people actively sewing and another four or five people cutting fabric and elastic,” Hall explained. “Dawn Banner and Mikkee West run our Mason and Charlotte drop off/ pick up sites, Amanda Grecni is coordinating transports and Jennifer Gonser is helping us coordinate with the other groups sewing around Michigan.
“We are coordinating with around 12 other groups around the state to refer to local mask makers when requests come in,” Hall added.
So far, all the material needed for the masks has either been donated or purchased through monetary donations received. Many people are donating materials; 100 percent cotton quilting fabric and 1/4” elastic are the main supplies needed. Cash donations are used to purchase additional fabric, elastic, bias tape makers, circular cutting blades and thread.
The time to make a mask varies based on the skills of the maker. As a beginner, Hall made 20 masks in four hours, she said.
Hall’s family members and friends in the medical field were her inspiration to start the group.
“When I saw a pattern for a mask online, I immediately called my sister to see if there was a need. She said yes and sent me the pattern for the N95 cover mask which is used to prolong the use of a disposable N95 mask.”
Seams, a fabric store in East Lansing, helped the group out with a donation of fabric and elastic while they waited for their ordered supplies to arrive. Hall posted on the Facebook community pages seeking people to help with sewing and asking who needed masks.
“It kind of took off from there,” she said.
Hall’s group focuses on essential workers and outreach workers in Eaton Rapids, Charlotte and Mason, and masks are free to them. They have approached Eaton Rapids and Charlotte businesses that are open and have offered masks to them and are in the process of doing the same for Mason. When requests from medical personnel are low, they have contributed to the Jackson main post office, outreach programs in Lansing and nursing homes in Dimondale, Lansing, Grand Ledge and Okemos.
“Right now, we have enough fabric and elastic for another 500 masks. Since we are unsure of how things will unfold in the next few weeks, we are still accepting donations of 100 percent cotton fabric and elastic.
Monetary donations for additional supplies are not needed at this time but might be again in the future. Supply donations are accepted through porch drop-off, with locations in Charlotte, Eaton Rapids and Mason.
“It is truly amazing to see how this group has developed through Facebook,” Hall said. “Many of us have never met in person aside from the occasional wave through a window. All our supplies and mask donations are done utilizing social distancing measures with porch drop off/ pick up, and all our requests, materials, tips, patterns, etc. are communicated through our Facebook group. Many people throughout the state have had the same idea, and we now have a network of mask makers who also have connections to mask makers in other states as well. It is pure happiness to see a mask on a local employee and know that it was made with love by a local volunteer.”
For more information or to help send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo provided: Diane Vogel of Eaton Rapids is one of those working hard at sewing masks as part of the Eaton Rapids Medical Mask effort.