LIMA — Hospitals across the country have asked for donations of personal protective equipment as they worked to ration the medical masks they possess. Another idea has taken hold: Home-sewn masks.
Across the state, experienced and new crafters alike have started putting together these masks — so much so that Dr. Amy Acton addressed it during Wednesday’s daily press conference with Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
“The masks are fascinating to me,” she said in the press conference. “Masks will certainly play a role, and I think we’ll see them being used in clever ways, so I really applaud the efforts. Each and every one of us can do some part of this massive puzzle piece, and I’m glad we have folks already working on that and industry already working on masks and sterilizing masks with steam and UV. There’s all sorts of innovation happening.”
Toni Wisher, of Middle Point, is one of many locals answering the call. She began making the masks on Tuesday and had 45 completed by Thursday when The Lima News spoke with her.
“These people doing this need to be celebrated because these masks are not simple,” Wisher said. “We had to close down shop on our business last week, and I really felt like I’m such a busy body and used to managing business from home. I feel like I want to help others be successful with it, too.”
Wisher began by looking at different patterns and watched several videos on YouTube of how others were creating the masks. With her background in having her own manufacturing business and sewing since she was about 10, she knew there had to be a quicker way to crank out more masks.
“I looked at a couple of patterns, but they were really difficult to follow, so I made my own pattern to make more, quicker,” she explained. “There are several masks with a lot of steps. I wanted to be able to assemble multiples and sew them together in multiples instead of doing them one by one, so I made my own with about three steps.”
Wisher’s masks are 100% cotton with ties and two layers so a filter can be inserted. She has opted to make ties out of her cotton fabric as well because she wanted to make use of what she has around the house and avoid going to the store to get elastic.
Wisher has been dropping off her homemade masks at the doorsteps of her friends, family and neighbors who work in healthcare.
For those also looking to donate, Lima Memorial Health System has set up drop-off sites across Allen, Auglaize, Hardin and Putnam counties to collect hand-sewn masks to be distributed to all local healthcare entities in need.
Lima Memorial Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Ann Pohl said they are still in the process of collecting the donated masks, but she has seen the outpouring of support.
“Having grown up here, I’m especially proud to see the community coming together to support our healthcare workers and to see how we can best care for our patients,” Pohl said. “We reached out to the communities that we normally work with and have representation in. I think it’s important to know that when we started this COVID response, we have been working hand-in-hand with the Allen County Health Department, Mercy Health and the EMA to make this intuitive for the entire community.”
At a time when it’s so easy to be discouraged, Wisher said this project has helped her.
“This has definitely been a way to keep myself entertained — but it’s also feeding my spirit because I know I’m helping others,” she explained. “The key is to not put too much pressure on yourself. Even if you can only make one or two — seriously, that first day it took me all day just to figure out how to make this — at the end of the week, that could be 15 to 20 people you help.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.