Wendy Armstrong recognized a need in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped mobilize an effort to fill it. The “Hopkins County Medical Mask Sewing Group” grew, in just a few weeks, to 447 members strong, but they’re not all from Hopkins County. How did one person’s idea go nation wide, and possibly even international? KSST News talked with Wendy by phone on April 20, 2020.
“Although it looks like we have the initial need for protective masks covered now, we have people that sew who are more than ready to go back into production whenever it’s needed. We made the fabric medical masks that were so direly needed at first, when supplies of the mass-produced paper masks just weren’t adequate. I learned to sew during this project, and several others did too. Of course, we have people in our community who sew all the time, and they shared their experience with us to get us started. The pattern is a simple one, but the construction of a mask is a multi-task process, and it’s not something you can complete in just a few minutes. One experienced seamstress said one mask took her close to one hour to make, start to finish, with no interruptions. That’s why so many different stitchers were needed at first, to fill the demand!”. When asked who the masks were made for, Wendy explained “Oh my goodness! At first, it was doctors and nurses at the hospital. And then we were hearing from all types of medical care workers, as well as day care and nursing home staffers. Then, members were running across people they knew with immune-deficiency or other health risks who needed protection from germs, and we made masks for them, from adult to youth to child sizes. Although we worked alone, sewing at our homes, we were well-organized as a group and stayed in touch with each other. Comments and ideas were exchanged through our Facebook page, the Hopkins County Medical Mask Sewing Group. That’s how we got the pattern out there. We also helped local stitchers to get the fabric and elastic they needed, if they didn’t already have supplies. I used part of my business space at Head2Toe Nutrition, to store donated supplies. When local inventories of elastic ran out, we just made straps out of fabric and kept right on sewing! I think having this cause to work for has actually helped some of our members to use some idle time during COVID-19 for something good an positive”, stated Wendy.
“We were actually the first organized group that I know of, and after we got started, people in other counties joined in or started their own. We helped groups in Hunt and Lamar County get started by sharing our patterns with them. They told their friends, and groups started up in cities like Tyler and San Antonio, and in other states too, including at least one in California. It’s been wonderful and encouraging to see the way people respond to a practical need that they can fill with their own two hands”.
When asked if the masks were sold or donated, Wendy replied, “all the masks we made were sewn and donated free of charge. That’s what we were trying to do from the beginning. Some of the doctors and clinics asked early on if they could pay for the masks, but there really wasn’t anything to ‘pay for’ because the supplies and labor were mostly all donated. I know that some of our sewing community are making masks for sale, because many have been out of work, and that’s OK too, because that is helping them during a time of need as well. Overall, I think the most rewarding thing is the ripple effect, and how our community has been able to be a tiny part of it. It’s amazing that such a simple thing could help to fill a crucially important need!”