Inspiring Okeechobee …Volunteers answer the call for help

OKEECHOBEE — In a call that is reminiscent of those heard during World Wars I and II, health care workers all over the United States are expressing a need for medical supplies, and just like those earlier calls, these cries are being answered by women, and maybe even some men, across the country. During the wars, women worked together in sewing circles to make bandages and clothing for the troops. This time, the need is not for bandages but for masks.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Dena Baker works on masks.

Nurses and doctors all over the country have said they are wearing their masks for days or even weeks at a time because there are no masks to be found anywhere. The CDC is advising they cover their faces with a bandana, because this is better than no coverage at all.

When the United States first received word of a possible pandemic, it brought out the worst in some people as they headed to the stores to hoard for themselves things like masks, gloves, sanitizing wipes, sanitizer and, for some strange reason … toilet paper.

While the pandemic may have brought out the worst in some people, it has brought out the best in many others.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Dena Baker’s masks present a variety of colors.

When people who sew heard about the mask shortage and the suggestion that nurses cover their faces with scarves, they were outraged and determined to help. Several patterns for masks were designed and sent out over the internet.

Melissa Roznak and Dena Baker, both of Okeechobee, began asking if there was a need in Okeechobee for these masks. As soon as the question was asked, medical professionals began clamoring for them.

Then other women, including Nancy Grantier Bartholomew, offered to help or said they were already making masks to donate themselves. Within 24 hours, Ms. Baker had over 100 requests for masks and Ms. Roznak had at least 60. They are sewing as fast as they can, and Ms. Bartholomew has only slowed down to wait for an elastic delivery. Many local doctors’ offices have asked for the masks. If anyone would like to volunteer, the masks are not difficult to make, and you will find many medical offices in town will be happy to have them.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Melissa Roznak fabricates some masks.

These instructions are from
• You will need two different cotton fabrics and two 7-inch pieces of elastic.
• Put the right sides of the fabric together. Cut 9 x 6 inches for an adult or 7.5 x 5 for a child.
• Starting at the center of the bottom edge, sew to the first corner, stop. Sew the elastic with the edge out into the corner. A few stitches forward and back will hold this.
• Sew to the next corner, stop, and bring the other end of the same elastic to the corner and sew a few stitches forward and back.
• Now sew across that top of the mask to the next corner. Again, put an elastic with the edge out.
• Sew to the next corner and sew in the other end of the same elastic.
• Sew across the bottom leaving about 1.5 to 2 inches open. Stop, cut the thread. Turn inside out.
• Pin three tucks on each side of the mask. Make sure the tucks are the same direction
• Sew around the edge of the mask twice.

Although a homemade fabric mask is not ideal, at this time, the CDC is recommending nurses cover their faces with a scarf or bandana if a mask is unavailable.

A fabric mask with a HEPA filter inserted in a pocket inside would seem to be an improvement over a scarf. For a HEPA filter, they recommend you buy vacuum cleaner bags and cut to the shape of the mask. Insert into the pocket.

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