“Do you need masks?”
This was the question Lea Margaret Hamilton asked her friend, Amy Walker, two weeks ago.
Walker, the chief nursing officer at the Delta Regional Community Center, replied, “Yes, and quickly.”
Walker is one of the many medical personnel in Washington County on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. While the specialized N95 masks are used in the hospitals’ isolation areas, the masks produced by people like Hamilton are used by other clinical and hospital staff.
Once Hamilton heard she could help, she started sewing. Her first batch of 10 for the hospital went through quickly.
“Can you make 100?” Walker asked Hamilton the next day.
Instead of saying no, Hamilton called her friends.
“If we can make 10 each, we can get this done,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton and her friends, including Sissy Stalllings, Rhonda Looney, Lourie Langdon, and Katherine Azlin, went to work.
Each day, they would sew enough to leave a big bag of masks by Hamilton’s driveway so an employee from the hospital could take them to work.
Since then, the women have continued sewing. And, as more of their friends joined in the operation, the number of masks just kept growing.
“It just ballooned,” Hamilton said. “There would be mornings I would show up, and there would be a big bag of masks left in the driveway, and I was not even sure who had made it.”
It is not just those who are good sewers who have helped. Because cutting out the fabric is so time consuming, friends like Becky Dixon and Dana Warrington have done a great job in preparing the material before it is sewed, Hamilton said.
Kim Dowdy, the community development manager at the Delta Regional Medical Center, said she and her fellow employees are thankful for the help provided to them by people like Hamilton and her friends.
“We are so fortunate to have local citizens donating supplies and their time for the hospital and staff,” Dowdy said. “Nationwide, there is a shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) so people such as Rhonda, Lea Margaret and others have taken it upon themselves to sew masks. These masks are used by the employees in the hospital as a safeguard during this COVID-19 situation.”
Dowdy said people like Hamilton and Looney are just two of the many people throughout the community who have helped during this crisis.
“We also have many people donating the N95 masks, which are vital during this situation. Some community people have donated food, cleaning supplies and other needed items because they understand the importance of keeping everyone safe and healthy,” Dowdy said.
Hamilton said she is just happy that her and her friends could help the community in this difficult time. Hamilton is the owner of the SoDelta Candle Company, but said right now her sole focus is in sewing as many masks as possible. She said she is now making masks for many people in the community on the front lines in the fight against the virus, including police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians.
She said she has also made masks for a friend in Texas who has a son in medical school.
“The trade was I will make the mask, and he helped tutor my son in math,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton has also made masks for friends in the medical profession fighting the virus in Nashville.
If people are interested in helping sew masks, Hamilton said that an Internet search will show “thousands” of different patterns to choose from.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several tips and advice on their website on how to properly make and wear homemade masks.
According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should:
* fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
* be secured with ties or ear loops;
* include multiple layers of fabric;
* allow for breathing without restriction; and
* be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
For more information on how to properly make, wear and care for homemade masks, visit cdc.gov.