Irving — When social distancing began, many people wondered how they would spend their time. With ample time to start a hobby or read a book, the possibilities may have felt endless. But for some Irving residents, the choice was clear: use their skills and passion to create masks and bands for people in the community.
Norma O’Neal is part of the Plymouth Park Baptist Church’s sewing group.
“A friend of mine from church is a very good seamstress and knew I sewed as well,” O’Neal said. “She called me when she knew about a need for homemade face masks at the Irving Hospital. I did not have a pattern, but I looked on YouTube and found an easy-to-follow pattern. My husband is a retired physician, and he told me a mask needed to have a wire to fit around the nose. So I altered it in the way I needed and shared that pattern with the other ladies in the group.”
O’Neal has made around eighty masks for family and friends. Altogether, the members of the sewing group have made over 300 masks for the hospital as well as for members of the community.
“We were already quarantined, and we communicated by telephone and email about the masks,” O’Neal said. “[Our organizer] would pick up whatever masks were ready and deliver them to the hospital. This project gives you a purpose. I love to do crafts and sewing, so it is part of my interests, but this is better, thinking about others. I think that is what we are supposed to do right now, to care for each other. It keeps me busy and keeps me doing something positive and helpful.
“The cloth masks were approved by John Drake from Baylor Scott and White Irving. They send the masks home with patients as they are released from the hospital. They are able to use the masks when they have to go out. I will keep making them for as long as someone needs them. We do not know when we will not need masks anymore, so I will just keep sewing them. The more you make the easier it gets, so I have it down. I try to keep some made up, so I have some available if someone needs one.”
Spencer Black, a 14 year old student interested in engineering, made plastic bands that go behind the head and hold masks in place.
“I decided to make the bands, because I knew that the doctors needed to have masks on 24/7 and these bands can stop chafing around the ears,” Black said. “The staff was grateful when I donated the bands. I have currently made 14 but plan on making and donating more. It takes four hours to print a batch of six, so it can be time consuming. I found the design online that was designed by a 12 year old Canadian who really solved the comfort problem of the masks.”
This project aligns with Black’s interests.
“When I grow up, I want to pursue a career as a mechanical/aerospace engineer,” Black said. “My other interests are engineering and designing vehicles. I love 3D printing and art.”
Susan DeSio started making masks as she healed from illness herself. She was unable to return to work until she was symptom free for two weeks, and making masks was the perfect way to pass the time after she healed.
“Once I started feeling better, I just started sewing,” DeSio said. “I made masks for Home Instead Senior Care. They are for the caregivers as they go into the homes of seniors. I’m a quilter, and I made a Prayer Quilt ministry at my church. Since we cannot meet, we decided to make masks instead. Once I made enough for Home Instead, we started making masks for the members of our church. We are making masks for everyone at Walnut Hill Church of Christ on Marsh.
“I have not been able to find elastic or hair ties to make the masks, so I have been making tie-on masks like the surgeons wear. I had purchased the fabric to make a quilt, but this was the higher priority. I have been making masks that are reversible. I have heard that some people have been taking the elastic out of their fitted sheets, elastic pants, or even underwear. I have not done that, but I would welcome any elastic someone has to donate.
“Even though the government and society is opening back up, we need to remember to wear our masks. They may not be easy to breathe in, but it is better than not breathing at all. I really feel strongly about making sure everyone is protected and protecting each other.”
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