News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Locals rally to support med personnel

A crusade of noble intentions has been underway in Sisters Country. Homebound residents are crafting hundreds of facemasks to help shield healthcare workers and others from the coronavirus.

Last week, Sisters resident Pete Shepherd launched a campaign: 5 day/500 Mask Challenge.

“The virus is pitching one fastball after another, high and tight to the chin. We come to the plate individually, and yet each of us can help all of us by watching for a pitch that we can hit,” Shepherd said. “Staying home is one of the most important things any individual can do for all of us. Making masks for use by healthcare providers is another pitch many of us can hit.”

He added, “We started with just an idea a week ago. Nearly 50 volunteers have contributed to the 5 Day/500 Mask Challenge. We received assistance from Age Friendly Sisters Country, Citizens4Community (C4C), The Nugget Newspaper, Your Store in Sisters, and many members of the faith and quilting communities of Sisters Country.”

A local business, Your Store, donated some of the raw materials needed, such as cotton T-shirts, while other volunteers made all the other parts and put together kits. Each kit included all parts for five masks, together with simple instructions. A sewing machine and minimal sewing skills are all that are required. Printed and online video instruction was provided.

Their labor produced 390 masks as of noon on the fifth day, which fell last Friday. On Saturday, they delivered 350 freshly laundered masks to The Lodge in Sisters, a senior living facility. This week, 30 will go to the office of Dr. May Fan in Sisters. Ten will be delivered to Our House, an adult foster home in Sisters. Medical professionals at all three facilities will use the masks to help protect patients, staff, and residents.

Shepherd noted, “When we started, few healthcare providers in the region were formally encouraging production of homemade masks. That quickly changed. Now, healthcare providers like the St. Charles Health System have published preferred designs. In the space of the same week in which we built the 5 Day/500 Mask network, vigorous self-organizing regional networks supporting home-based production have blossomed, mostly through social media.”

It is important to note that do-it-yourself masks made from home will not replace the heavy-duty, N95 surgical masks. The all-cotton masks created by Shepherd and his team will be given to healthcare providers. They won’t be made for patients or as preventive measures for the general public.

Age Friendly Sisters Country (AFSC), a non-profit organization that responds to the needs of the aging population by improving services for all, helped the mask-making initiative by getting the word out to Sisters Country.

Board member John Griffith told The Nugget, “Lots of community volunteers have been making masks both for St. Charles via the Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers, and through Pete Shepherd’s callout to Sisters to make 500 masks.”

East of the Cascade Quilters Guild also put the word out that masks were needed.

Diane Tolzman said, “Gilda Hunt and I are the co-leaders of the guild and our goal is to provide information to our members on the different opportunities available for them to make a difference in our community by making fabric masks.”

The guild has 60 active members and over 20 of them, along with their family and friends, have made over 300 masks that were donated to several different groups: Partners in Care, provides home health and hospice services; St. Charles Health System; Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers, distributes masks to local medical organizations; Harmony Farm Sanctuary for the volunteers who care for the animals; and Shepherd’s group, the 5 day/500 Mask Challenge.

Valori Wells, co-owner of The Stitchin’ Post, donated fabric to Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers.

Tolzman added, “With the shelter-in directive we are not able to meet as a guild, so this is a perfect way to share our passion with others as a group. It is a way to be proactive in a situation where it is easy to feel out of control. This is a great at-home project for quilters as we all have a large “stash” of fabric and sewing machines that can be used to make masks. It isn’t often that we can save a life using our sewing skills. I tell our members they are saving a life one mask at a time!”

Local artist Kit Stafford made masks for home caregivers from Hospice and Partners in Care.

“I am happy to put some time in to help the precious people on the front lines,” she said.

“Many organizations know that there are lots of people that sew in Sisters. I have a lot of fabric and I’ve streamlined a system with a pattern I can make in several sizes. Some are subdued colors, others are not. They can be washed again and again.”

Shepherd added, “Now that the 5 Day/500 Mask Challenge is over. I deeply appreciate the dedication all our volunteers brought to their work. Now I encourage all of them to sustain their commitment by making masks according to the St. Charles model — or any other model specifically endorsed by any other healthcare provider — and by coordinating their efforts through one of the new social media networks for home production, such as Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers.” (Search Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers on Facebook).


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