The North Bend Eagle


Mask makers unmasked

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 4/1/20

Pat Beebe and Mary Buller feel like they are on the home front of a war. A war against COVID-19. They heard the plea for reusable masks and both volunteered to sew to in the fight against the coronavirus.

Buller had a friend send her the plea for masks and a link with a pattern.

Sewing masksMary Buller finishes up her last mask she made for use of medical personnel. The cloth mask will be used over the N-95 barrier masks.

“If I had a sheet, I was going to make it,” Buller said.

Buller made 38 masks from an old sheet initially but only had enough elastic for eight of them.
Elastic was a known shortage and the people organizing the collection would take the masks without elastic.

Holly Barstow and Patricia Longacre of Omaha were the original organizers of this mask project. The goal was to get 10,000 masks. They put it on Facebook and had over 800 volunteers in four hours.

The masks go to medical facilities where staff can wear them over the N-95 masks that are best for preventing spread of the COVID-19 virus. These cloth masks are changed each time the medical person goes into another patient’s room. The N-95 can be worn up to five times before personnel have to change them, therefore they last longer with the cloth covers. The cloth masks, changed after each patient interaction, are washed and then reused.

The Omaha women made kits with material to make 25 masks. HyVee donated bags to put the supplies in. The poly-cotton sheets were donated and cut into 8 by 12 inch rectangles by the Celtic Quilters. Thread and 50 lengths of elastic were in each bag. There was a problem getting the elastic as stores were out. A plea was put on the internet and soon seamstresses were donating the elastic.

To make the masks as economically as possible, those who wanted to sew had to go to Omaha to pick up a kit. Beebe did so.

Longacre has four labeled tin garbage cans in front of her home. One has bags of kits; one for completed masks; one for completed masks that still need elastic; one for elastic donations.

Buller and Beebe shared a kit.

“I feel like I’m part of World War II,” Beebe said. “All the things people did (on the home front) to help. I felt like I was a part of history.”

Buller said it took her a little longer than two hours to sew her 12.

“It was fun,” Buller said. “You felt like you were contributing something to the cause.”

For more information on this group go to Nebraska Masks for Medicine Facebook group. This group was formed March 21 as an all-volunteer effort to recruit makers to sew 10,000 mask covers for area hospitals that have requested them.

“Time is of the essence, as our docs and nurses need these right now,” it said on their page. “If you didn’t get signed up in time to get a kit, you can still help! If you have white cotton bedsheets, thread and 1/4” elastic - you’re all set.”

Beebe took the 25 completed masks to Omaha Monday.

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