A group of Litchfield Park neighbors have taken “together apart” to heart, banding together to sew and distribute washable, reusable face masks to local healthcare facilities and to the Navajo Nation, which has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of May 1, the group had sewn and distributed 1,575 masks, said Pat Wong of Litchfield Greens, and more were in progress. The project started as a party of one when Ms. Wong dusted off her sewing machine, ordered 30 yards of fabric and 288 yards of elastic online and started sewing after her sister sent her a link to an instructional mask-making video in March.
“I didn’t have much of a plan, but word spread and I was getting requests from lots of family and friends. I also saw that hospitals and nursing homes were requesting handmade masks,” Ms. Wong said via email. “I couldn’t keep up. I asked my husband, Wray, if he would sew if I got another machine, and he agreed. We needed help cutting fabric, so I asked neighbors if they would help. Two couples set up cutting areas (aka sweatshops) in their garages. It snowballed from there.”
A total of 20 neighbors have worked together as as elastic cutters, fabric cutters, bias tape makers, mask-sewers and deliverers, Ms. Wong said, adding that friends and family have donated materials and cash to keep the project going.
“My good friend, Robyn Lotts-Ferro of Litchfield Park, donated hundreds of yards of elastic and seam binding when we ran low,” Ms. Wong said. “We have purchased over 120 yards of fabric and bought two sewing machines. My mom, Shirley Burke of Avondale, contributed the majority of the cash, with Wray and I, and our brothers and sisters also contributing.”
The group’s first shipment of 200 masks went to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital emergency room on April 9 and the next 200 went to St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center.
On April 23, drivers dropped off 220 masks to the Navajo Relief Fund in Phoenix, and the group shipped 170 to a member of the Navajo Nation for distribution in Page. On May 1, 200 were mailed to the the Navajo Nation Covid Relief Fund in Window Rock, and another 100 were slated to go to Habitat for Humanity on May 4, Ms. Wong said.
The group also dropped off 100 masks for employees at Legacy House, a senior living community in Avondale, and the rest have been given to family and friends locally and throughout the U.S., she said.
“It has been great getting to know our neighbors better and feeling like our little group is doing something to help out,” Ms. Wong said, adding that she’s heartened by the number of people who are helping out around the globe.
“I belong to a Facebook group, Open Source COVID 19 Medical Supplies, which shares ideas, supply sources and needs around the world. The group members provide the quantities of products they have made and distributed to the world,” she said. “Last week, this group made and distributed 1.25 million items! These are regular people with 3-D printers making ear-savers, face shields, people with sewing machines making masks, caps etcetera. It’s pretty incredible what normal people are doing with their free time.”
Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-963-1697. For up-to-date local reporting on all things COVID-19, Independent Newsmedia has created a webpage dedicated to coverage of the novel coronavirus: #AZNEWSMEDIA