A North Canton woman, who’s a retired nurse, has a compromised immune system and is self-quarantined. So she got to work sewing protect masks for health care workers. Now she has a team of volunteers fighting the coronavirus.
A retired nurse with a sewing machine and plenty of time on her hands due to coronavirus self-quarantine, Angela Marie Perkins of North Canton has put together a remarkable volunteer project.
Recognizing the crucial need for protective face masks, Perkins has mobilized 15 Stark County women she calls "sewing angels" into making three-layer, washable, 100-percent cotton masks for donation to area hospitals and other care facilities.
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As of Monday, 834 of these masks had been distributed. The "angels" also are making launderable shoe covers.
"When I started hearing that there was a shortage of masks in the community about two and a half weeks ago, I saw this as something we needed to do now and quickly," said Perkins, who is owner and chef of Poggio Amorelli Bed & Breakfast in North Canton. She has sewn 170 masks herself in the past week or so.
Volunteers were recruited through social media, including a Facebook group titled Stark Cares Covid-19 Community Network. Not all of them sew.
"Some just cut material, some buy fabric and wash it, some assemble masks. Some are shut-ins in their 70s and 80s who can’t get out because of their health and want to help," Perkins said. "All of the fabric has been donated. There are people who have had fabric in their basements for years."
After learning that the mask team is very low on elastic, Dollar General district manager Trace Zornes arranged for the donation of 100 elastic headbands that can be used in making the masks.
Lorraine Wilburn of North Canton serves as a gofer for the project, running fabric to sewing volunteers, picking up and delivering completed masks, and more.
"People are uncertain and scared and some have lost their income. I think (making masks) gives them something positive they can focus on. They’ve told me that helping people makes them feel a little more in control," Wilburn said. "A lot of health care professionals tell us they're grateful for these masks, which help conserve the N95 masks."
The fabric masks are not used on the front line with patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but are a reusable substitute for paper masks in other healthcare areas. "We’re using a pattern that has been approved by the CDC. They have to be 100-percent cotton. Some of them have pockets if you need to put a filter in there for added protection," Perkins said.
The masks have been approved for use at Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center, Perkins said. They also have been donated to Akron Children’s Hospital, CommQuest Services, McKinley Health Care Center, Summa Health Barberton and other health care facilities.
"Our first goal is to fill medical needs first," Perkins said. "For people who have immune-compromised illnesses, we will make special masks for them with pockets for filters." said Perkins, who is immunocompromised from lupus.
Barb Resch of Canton Township has sewn about 75 masks so far, including 25 she personally donated to a local pharmacy, and has 40 more in production.
"’I’ve always liked creating." said Resch, who co-owns the downtown Canton gift shop Cantonology. "Now I’m sewing masks, and I’m using beautiful fabric that I bought for artistic things. I have about 10 yards left. This is a necessary thing, but it’s also kind of fun and a creative outlet for me.
"We’re in one of those situations now that makes you feel helpless. I felt myself mentally spiralling," Resch said. Sewing masks "makes you feel like you’re at least playing a little part in what the battle is."
The home-based, crisis-inspired sewing project has become a full-time job for Perkins, the organizer.
"This is how we’re staying connected," she said. "This is our community protecting our community, one mask at a time."
For information on volunteering to make masks, obtaining masks and donating 100-percent cotton fabric and elastic for masks, visit StarkCares.com or send an email to StarkCaresNetwork@gmail.com.