Pandemic Mask Sewing Project – September Update

In cooperation with Sewing Hope for DESC, and a with an emergency grant from the Peacemaking Program of the Presbytery of St. Augustine, multiple small groups and individuals in our presbytery quickly began sewing and donating homemade facemasks for medical personnel in a wide variety of facilities at the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic when PPE equipment was sparsely available. 

Our latest updates:

Hannah Frison’s Mask-Making School Project

Paxon High School student Hannah Frison felt strongly that she wanted to do something to help her community during the pandemic.  In her words, “I searched groups who need homemade masks and I saw a link to your website” and she contacted Kathryn McLean who was our local contact. She began her mask sewing community service project as a part of her schools Bright Futures Scholarship program. She put in 61 hours and 59 minutes on the projects and wrote some reflections on her experience. She created 130 masks by herself with some support and great ideas from her mom. Hannah is pictured below with some of the masks she sewed, and also pictured is the box that was received at Dr. Garmendia’s office for distribution to those in need.  A few of Hannah’s reflections about her participation in the project are included here: 

When asked “What did you learn about yourself during this service experience, Hannah responded: “I learned that doing things the best way possible doesn’t always mean its going to be easy. I walked into the mask business thinking it was going to be a breeze. Then I found out it wasn’t. Basically, had to change my whole mindset in order to finish the masks. I also learned that am very resilient and I don’t give up very easily. There were so many things that could’ve made me give up, but I didn’t. My back was hurting, threads were breaking, tools were being destroyed, scissors chomping down on fabric, and even parts of the sewing machine were breaking, but I kept going. Sometimes you just know that all of the heart and education you put into something will come back to you generously.”

Hannah was also asked “What learner attributes did you develop during this service experience?” She responded: “I think I increased my knowledgeable trait simply because I learned so much about sewing and crafting and just how to live in general. I learned how to thread a machine then sew fabric and thread elastic or ribbon through fabric. I also learned that there is always more than one way to do somethings and that sometimes you need to do one thing at a time instead of bouncing all over the place. In this way you worker smarter instead of harder.”

Face Shields

When one of the physicians who was helping to coordinate mask delivery to acute areas of need at Ascension/St. Vincent’s Medical Center (including St. Catherine’s Laboure’ Manor and several nursing homes that were hot spots for COVID-19) alerted us that there was an urgent need for the additional protection of Face Shields, we found a source which was making and donating them!  BCP Trucking Company led by President Nancy Spelsberg in Wisconsins’ employees had their truck driver’s routes reduced due to the pandemic.      

In order to keep her employees on the payroll and do something to help supply health professionals with critically needed PPE, Nancy repurposed part of their warehouse to create an assembly line where her truck drivers learned how to make face shields. Not only did they make them and donate them, they shipped them for free to the locations we indicated had the most critical needs!  Most of the shields went to Jacksonville area medical facilities, and multiple shipments also were sent to some hospitals and nursing homes in critical need in Connecticut when the virus was at its peak there.

When the shields were received, the recipients graciously took photos of themselves and their colleagues wearing the face shields, which were then forwarded back to the trucking company’s warehouse, where the owner copies the photos and began hanging them the photos in the warehouse to encourage her employees and let them know their work was making a direct impact in multiple communities!

Sister Aurelia Wurmnest who serves at the new Guardian Catholic school taking a batch of face shields to the teachers who’ll be serving children in situations of poverty. Their school opened on August 17th.
Thanks to many!

The individuals and groups have been sewing for months. As masks become more readily available to the public and medical facilities, some groups have concluded their projects. Several individuals continue to sew masks. Collectively the groups have created over 2000 washable, reusable masks for the community, and over 500 Face shields have been donated to local medical facilities and multiple nursing homes and assisted living homes.

We want to express much gratitude to each person and group who has worked so hard in a short amount of time to help protect medical personnel and patients:

  • Sewing Hope for DESC (aka the Mask Mommas) led my Sharon Meehan from Riverside Presbyterian Church along with Martha Millard of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church,
  • Project Live from Kirkwood Presbyterian Church led by Kathy Stanley,
  • “Sew & So” group of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine led by Charlotte Shaw,
  • Liz Leuthold and Leone Faust from South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church,
  • Sheila Parrish from Mandarin Presbyterian Church,
  • a group from Lakewood Presbyterian Church led by Linda Allen,
  • Paxon High School Student Hannah Frison,
  • the President of BCP Trucking Company in Wisconsin, Nancy Spelsberg,
  • Dr. Jose Garmendia and Dr. Acosta-Rua of Ascension-St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside.

The plaid masks are made from repurposing men’s shirts!  We thank Leone Faust and Liz Leuthold from South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church for their faithful work in repurposing so many materials to create these masks for our health care workers!

The photo below reflects one medical center’s gratitude for all the “superheros” that have worked together in the fight against COVID-19. The numbers here could be multiplied to thank everyone in our communities that have been on the frontline of this pandemic. We are all heroes in some way!

This photo was taken at Ascension-St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside supporting the medical teams who have helped so many COVID-19 patients.

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