What’s in a face mask? For Fremont Bridge Rotary, LOTS and LOTS of love and effort. With so many difficult things happening the world today, it’s important to realize how many good people there are in this world. Please take a moment to read.

This is the experience of people that do not even belong to our Rotary Club. They stepped up when asked to help out with a project to help with facemarks at the beginning of the COVID19 outbreak. Here is Kristen Winmill‘s story.

“Paul Andrus contacted me and another mutual friend towards the end of March about helping with a request the Fremont Bridge Rotary Club received from Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose for fabric face masks. Paul knew that both of us sewed and needed some questions answered about materials, time and logistical needs to fulfill this request. As our other friend recently had children and grandchildren move back home as they had been away to medical school, I was placed in charge of organizing a team of volunteers.

At first, I reached out to other members of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as I felt they would not only respond quickly but would also have necessary skills and tools. These friends contacted other friends and they contacted other friends and soon we had in our group 49 volunteers!

Beside my group, there were two other groups of volunteers that helped as well. I will be discussing my group that I worked with as I do not know the information about these other groups. This amazing group of individuals helped with picking up fabric and supplies from the store, picking up donated materials from individual’s homes, cutting out fabric for the requested pattern, washing fabric, ironing, making bias tape that was used for tying the masks, ironing, constructing the masks, ironing, dropping off completed masks, ironing and some more ironing. If you have not caught on, this project required a great deal of ironing! Some people did not quite feel comfortable with their skills and would ask for assistance from those more experienced. This was complicated by the fact that we were under shelter in place orders. Phone calls, texting, Zoom, Skype and other methods of communication were used to help. It would be safe to say that by the end of this project, everyone’s skills were greatly improved not only in sewing but Zoom and other communication media as well. It would be difficult to catalog the hours it took to complete this project. Some of the volunteers were high school students who were cutting out fabric to help with their required volunteer hours for graduation. They are the only participants that kept track of their time. Some volunteers were retired and had time on hand to help whenever they felt like they could spend the time. Other volunteers were trying to juggle the new demands of working remotely and some were parents whose children were now learning from home. So many new dynamics that were coming into play with each volunteer and their family.
Fifteen of the volunteers who participated used their own fabric, other donated fabric or bias tape but did not sew. Rotary did provide thread, but with the amount of required sewing it would be safe to say volunteers used a substantial amount of their own thread as well. There were some extremely colorful masks that had one color for the mask itself, another color for the bias tape straps and a different color for thread…lol. These were the masks that were made with love.
There are masks out there that will match the same fabric as is in a quilt on someone’s bed, an apron used in a kitchen, a Halloween costume on a child, or items created by fabric that was left over from previous project. I recognized some of this fabric as I had seen the original projects or knew about them.

Here are some more details about some of the volunteers themselves:
One of the volunteers was helping to make masks for three different organizations. Her husband is considered to be in a high-risk group as he has a compromised immune system.

Another volunteer was a mother that was also undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She would go in for treatments one day a week and the other days she would spend time teaching her daughters to sew.

Other volunteers had been laid off and wanted to do something positive with their time. It would be safe to say that most volunteers also made masks for their family members.

One volunteer had a personal goal of making 100 masks for this project and achieved this. Then she made more for her family and friends.

Another volunteer’s mother had been diagnosed with a severe case of COVID-19 on the other side of the country and put her focus and energies in to making masks as there was little she could do to help her family (her mother made a full recovery and is doing well).

Many volunteers made masks for co-workers and their families.

Yet another volunteer used to have a quilting shop and donated a roll of bias tape. As each mask required 5 feet of bias tape, this was a donation that was most precious.

I can speak a little about my experience. Luckily, I was raised by a retired Home Economics teacher who required that I learn to sew at a young age. I fought this, but I learned. Thank heavens for that. One of the things that I learned how to make is what is called continuous binding in the quilting world. This is when you take a piece of fabric and turn it into bias tape that is in one long piece (a two-yard section of fabric can be turned into 45 yards of bias tape). This is what I did for most of my time of the project as I previously mentioned each mask required a large amount of this. A great deal of my time was spent cutting and ironing, mostly ironing… I did not keep track of the time that I spent making bias tape, I only know that I listened to all the Downton Abbey Series, all the Poldark Series and a couple of seasons of Supernatural. There were a few audio books in there as well. It is safe to say that I made a mile of bias tape myself.
There were a number of things that I learned while working on this project. Even though the world may be filled with darkness and hatred, there are good people out there that far outnumber the bad. People want to help. They just need to be given direction and guidance. And I really need to teach a class on making continuous binding…”

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