A shortage of protective masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired citizens of Liberal to come together at a distance to make reusable masks for those on the front lines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended for everyone to wear protective masks and gloves, if they can. Not only nurses, surgeons and hospital employees are all in dire need of these reusable masks, but also, this is now a necessity for regular citizens.
Donations have been made to the hospital by many people, such as the American Legion Auxiliary. Linda Decamp, president of the auxiliary, said she decided to bring her friends from the auxiliary together to start a project that would help by making reusable and washable masks for hospital employees.
“I have two daughters that work at the hospital. One of them works on the oncology side of the hospital and one of them works in an office. One of my daughters called and asked if anybody could make some, and I told her the ladies in the auxiliary could, since we are all experienced quilters,” Decamp said.
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Decamp advised the ladies who worked on the masks to make as many as they felt comfortable in making. Peggy Luck, Bonnie Ryma, Sherri Risse and Sharon Keating, all members of the auxiliary, made masks for the hospital donations.
The project began last week, and since the start, she has made several for the hospital and some for her family as well.
“In making these masks, we’re showing the people that we’re here and that we care. I hope it brings the community together during these tough times, and I think it has,” Decamp added.
Not only have citizens in Liberal been inspired but, Liana Horner, director of surgery at Southwest Medical Center, said that even her own surgical staff has begun to make masks for hospital employees and their families. They have decided to cancel all elective surgeries and only do emergency surgeries, as supplies on surgical masks run low. The entire second floor of the hospital has begun to sew and donate masks for the employees.
“My staff has gone into mask making mode for the past five days. They’ve made at least one mask for everyone that works at the hospital. It keeps us from using disposable masks and it definitely helps with the shortage,” Horner said.
Close to 200-250 masks have been made and donated. Horner said her staff had to go buy material for the masks to be made in the hospital during their work time. They all work together, “in an assembly line,” to make the process go by faster. The line consists of stations to cut out the pattern, cut out the material, and sew the material together.
“Some of the women making the masks have gone and bought sewing machines for themselves after this process just because they enjoyed making the masks so much. A lot of them also make some for their families so it has reached beyond the walls of the hospital,” Horner said.
Outside of the hospital though, Diana Meza, an experienced tailor and fashion design major at Kansas State University, has begun to make and sell protective masks during this time of need to those who are essential workers. She had to come back home to Liberal due to the shift to online school.
She said she decided to begin making them out of the request of her mom’s friend.
“I’ve been sewing for a while now for school and my mom’s friend called and requested for us to make some, so I thought why not do something nice for people when they need it the most,” Meza said.
Elvis Polvon, freshman journalism major, has received one of these masks and said that he enjoys how the mask is made from good quality material which helps him feel safe. Polvon added that we should each consider wearing a mask to keep others and ourselves safe.
Diana’s mom, Norma Meza, has been helping her make masks for those who have made orders with her. They sell them at an affordable price, not only to be able to buy more material and supplies for masks, but for people to be able to afford them to stay safe.
“I wanted to help because I like to sew and help people. I was seeing how the pandemic was happening and stores were running out of masks, so because we knew how to sew, I told Diana that we should make them,” Norma said.
Diana said she feels like she is making a difference, so that people feel safer rather than running around bare. Norma adds that it’s important to help people right now, especially with shortages.
The mask has five layers of protection with a filter, but without it, it’s only two. These protective surgical masks have to be made with 100% cotton for a breathable fit. For the filter, polyethylene fabric is used on the outside, which is identical to disposable mask fabric. The inside of the filter is Pellon interfacing, which adds protective layers to the mask. The filter is placed inside a pocket on the mask, which can all be washed and reused every day.
“The goal to finish keeps me motivated, and knowing that I’m giving people good quality masks and that they are protected also helps me reach my goals at the end of each day,” Diana said.