Volunteers sew masks for health care workers amid shortage due to pandemic

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Volunteers are sewing face masks to donate to health care workers as hospitals deal with a dangerous shortage amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

Stephanie Cave, a quilter and owner of a home-based sewing business, made 25 masks, spreading the word on social media to encourage others to contribute, too.

“I know so many people who are on the front lines, who are helping day to day, and I’ve heard that they don’t have the equipment that they need,” Cave said. “And even though this might not be ideal, it’s something that we can do to help support them.”

Cave and others, both skilled and new to sewing, are making the masks using guidelines provided by Evansville, Indiana-based Deaconess Health System, which is urging the public to help make Centers for Disease Control-compliant masks. The hospital system has released a video showing potential volunteers how.

“It’s just as simple as sewing some elastic to two pieces of fabric, turning it inside out and top-stitching it,” Cave said. “It’s easy-peasy.”

In Cambridge, Gather Here Stitch Lounge is doing its part to help, too. The owner, Virginia Johnson, provided a video tutorial online for those looking to help, with a sewing instructor demonstrating each step of the mask-making process.

The final product includes an opening to insert a filter. While the masks aren’t medical-grade, volunteers hope hospital staff will at least be able to wear them over their disposable N95 respirators to get extra use out of them.

“In this time, it’s hard to know what to do. And so, this I thought was a great way to help. We’ve been sort of mobilizing people over the internet to help with this initiative,” Cave said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community who’s doing so much to help everyone.”

Three drop-off boxes for donated masks have been set up at businesses, including Gather Here. Volunteers are working on coordinating distribution to hospitals and other institutions that need the masks.

Boston 25 News reached out to several area hospitals to determine which ones are accepting homemade mask donations.

South Shore Hospital tells Boston 25 News they have a team that is figuring out the process of accepting donations. The masks must be sterilized and inspected to make sure they are safe and appropriate, but health care workers could soon be wearing them.

Lahey Health is also putting a system in place to potentially accept mask donations.

UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester has received many donations of medical-grade masks from individuals and organizations. While it is unclear if the hospital will accept the cloth masks, the hospital says it is aware of a group sewing effort out of nearby Shrewsbury. The hospital says an inquiry was even made about donating 3D-printed masks.

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