Members of the Oklahoma Home and Community Education group in Ada, Oklahoma, are putting their sewing skills to good use in an effort to help the healthcare practitioners at their local hospital.
Janna Kelley, Oklahoma State University Extension family and consumer sciences/4-H youth development educator in Pontotoc County, said when her OHCE group was contacted to make masks for Mercy Hospital in Ada, they quickly jumped into action.
“I’m not surprised at how quickly members of the group got started making these masks,” Kelley said. “Community involvement always has been a big part of OHCE programming, and if there was ever been a time when our community needed help, it’s now.”
Hospitals across the country are running low on supplies in response to the spread of COVID-19 infection, including disposable masks. Manufacture and delivery of replacement equipment is uncertain. This is where OHCE comes in.
Jodi Langwell, president of the Pickett-Center OHCE group, said her club, along with the Vanoss OHCE group, started producing masks using a pattern supplied by the hospital.
“I sent out a group text to the club members and they all said, ‘We’re on it,’” Langwell said. “I’m not surprised at all at their willingness to help. We do a lot of community service, especially with schools, and we’re always looking for ways to reach out into the community. Since schools are closed now, this is a way we can still make a difference.”
Janette Duck, an occupational nurse at Mercy Hospital, said the medical staff is thankful for the donation of the masks.
“Having these masks in our arsenal is a comfort and will in all likelihood play a large part in helping Mercy serve Pontotoc County during this pandemic,” Duck said. “We’re working on being more specific on how we need the masks to be made for those who will be on the front line. When all that’s needed is a surgical mask, these are a perfect way to save the disposable ones. We’ve never not used single-use masks and we continue to work on policy of how to use them. Our health care professionals are still navigating through this situation and we appreciate the support of the community.”
Langwell said each mask takes about 20 minutes to make. Some of the club members reported trouble finding elastic bands needed for the masks, so they have improvised with cloth ties.
“This is a great way for us to use up all those small pieces of leftover fabric or that fabric we bought for a project and never used,” she said. “This really has become a family project for many of us. My husband and grandson are helping me with this project. It keeps us busy and away from the TV.”
Langwell also noted the Oklahoma Foster Care program reached out to the OHCE group and requested about 1,500 of the masks, which will be distributed throughout the system. She said foster parents and children are encouraged to wear the masks if they have a cough.
“This makes me feel good that I’m doing something helpful during this crisis,” Langwell said. “I feel like I can be part of the recovery.”
Kelley said anyone in the community with sewing skills who wants to help can contact her for the pattern and instruction.
“Anyone is welcome to make masks and drop them off at the Pontotoc County OSU Extension Office. Our office is closed to the public during this time, but the masks can be left by the door and I’ll make sure they get delivered to the hospital,” Kelley said. “I’m really proud of all of my OHCE members who saw this need and jumped right in to help. It’s just what we do.”
The Pontotoc County OSU Extension Office is located at 1700 N. Broadway in Ada. Contact Kelley at 580-332-2153 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.