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Local stitchers put together masks for local nurses

Local stitchers put together masks for local nurses
Certified Nursing Assistant Sarah Sullivan, wearing a donated facemask, checks supplies in an isolation cart at the 11th Street Chautauqua Guest Home. Submitted photo
By James Grob,

Nurses need masks — that’s just a fact.

And local sewing groups are always looking for new things to sew.

Combine that need and that skill with the desire to help, and good things can get done pretty quickly.

Facilitated in part by Holly Connor at Stitches Fabric and Yarn Shoppe in Charles City, a handful of motivated stitchers have helped to resupply some local nurses at care facilities and the hospital with face masks. There will be a batch of masks delivered to the shop on Wednesday morning.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” said Sue Ayers. “The community has just been so gracious.”

To comply with social distancing recommendations, there will be a basket outside the south door of Stitches — located at 715 Kelly Mall — to drop the masks in, starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Among other things, Ayers is an infection prevention nurse at Chautauqua Guest Homes in Charles City. A couple of weeks ago she discovered a problem.

“We are having a horrible time getting personal protective equipment for our nurses,” she said. “You just cannot buy it. It’s just not available. So we are doing our best to do anything that we can.”

In particular, Ayers said, there was a shortage of protective masks.

She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week issued guidance regarding what people should do if they can’t get supplies. It included things like reusing masks — which Ayers said has always been a “no-no.”

“They said something to the effect of, in the absence of all other alternatives, a scarf or a bandana is better than nothing,” Ayers said. “As a nurse, that’s a pretty frightening thing to hear.”

Ayers said she was told that the hospital was having a similar shortage. Upon further investigation, Ayers started seeing information about people making medical masks.

“There are a zillion patterns out there, so I gave a call to Holly Connor who owns Stitches,” Ayers said. “Holly said right away, ‘If you can get me a pattern, I’ll donate the fabric and we’ll do it.’”

Conner told Ayers that she thought several people would be willing to step up to the plate, and “they did in a big way.” Just over one week later, with Conner’s coordination and donations of fabric, dozens of groups and individuals have gotten to work. They’ve not only made cloth masks for Chautauqua, but for Floyd County Medical Center.

“I told Holly that we could use 150 — I don’t know what the hospital has asked for — but I just have absolutely no doubt they will come through,” Ayers said. “So many local churches have sewing groups. It’s so great that they can support us that way.”

Ayers said that the care center has also received donations of the N95 respirator masks that can often be found at hardware stores, and although those masks are supposed to be single-use, if a handmade cloth mask is slipped over them, they can be used more than once.

Several businesses and individuals in the community have also donated equipment and other hard-to-find items — things such as hand sanitizer — in the past few days to help Chautauqua fortify itself for fighting the COVID-19 spread.

“It’s just been awesome, we’re just thrilled,” Ayers said. “I think that we are now just about as prepared as we can possibly be.”