Massive Mask Mission to Save Lives.

Face Coverings are the single easiest way to help during the Pandemic. I wear a mask to protect you. Will you wear one to protect me? This is the question I asked as COVID-19 ravaged our area.

Our Obgyn office takes care of pregnant women. We had to keep our office open. Despite the shelter in place warnings, pregnancy does not care about the pandemic. Those babies are coming out.

We implement screening protocols, social distancing, and hand-hygiene to provide a safe environment for our patients.

We were missing masks.

Masks were not available.

We reached out to sewing groups on Facebook to find help. While some people ignore the face-covering guidelines, senior citizen sewing clubs such as Quilting Angels and other local heroes came to the rescue.

The Quilting Angels is a local sewing group providing sensory mats for quilts for various charities, seniors with Alzheimer’s, children with autism and Down Syndrome. For the past three years, this group met on Tuesdays to create comfort blankets for those in need. ·

In times of crisis, heroes emerge. Leaders lead. Where many see adversity, others find opportunities. In every city, strangers united to use their gifts and talents to help #stopthespread.

As more Americans lose their lives to Coronavirus, we must continue to celebrate the incredible people who rise to the occasion and give their time, energy, money and prayers to help make the world a better place.

Here, I share a letter sent from Maureen, the leader of the Quilting Angel’s. I share it to remind all of us that the best of humanity is always right around the corner.

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Dear Contributers:

My thanks go to every one of you for your contributions to Quilting Angels’ Massive Mask Mission. You gave your time and talents freely to help protect our hospitals, first responders, neighbors, and more. Quilters and other residents sprinkled throughout Frisco Lakes joined our mission to safeguard medical personnel and their patients. We are still sewing masks, but the effort is slowing down since demand has lessened, so I want to take the time to thank you for your help and to share a bit about the process.

This has been an enormous project born of the need to slow the spread of Coronavirus this spring. Our first priority was to donate masks to the front lines: Doctors, Nurses, and other medical personnel at local hospitals and medical facilities.

Keeping the Domino Effect in mind, we sought your help to make as many washable masks as we could as fast as possible to protect those dealing directly with citizens infected with CV-19.

If the caregivers fell ill and unknowingly passed the virus on to others, it would have spread like wildfire. The deluge of patients would outnumber the vacant hospital beds & ventilators, and not enough healthy caregivers would be available to care for them.

It would have been disastrous.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many hospital leaders did not want homemade masks. When it became apparent that COVID-19 was a tremendous foe, they reconsidered. Millions of N95 masks are routinely shipped from China, but suddenly the Chinese authorities were taking the masks for their own country’s use. The medical industry HAD TO find an alternative supply of protective masks.

After I made numerous phone calls and sent emails, we were approved as providers of home-sewn masks to several area hospitals. Next, it was time for me to find acceptable patterns and create detailed instructions that would be clear to our volunteers without face-to-face demonstrations.

This took lots of research online, experimentation at my sewing machine, approval from the hospitals, adjusting measurements, taking photos along the way, and distributing the files quickly so willing helpers could jump in and start making the masks.

Some hospitals had no idea of which style of mask would be best. A couple only wanted masks for the patients to wear when staff interacted with them, keeping patients’ germs from sickening the doctors. Others wanted one type for medical personnel aiding COVID patients, another style for the patients, and a third type for support staff. Some only wanted N95 covers, but later they expanded the acceptable types for different needs.

We ended up making three main types of masks:

Pleated, surgical style

curved, fitted one

Rounded style made of four football-shaped pieces

We made them for extra-large men all the way down to young children’s sizes. Some hospitals required the ‘football’ masks so their staff could use them over their N95 masks and just change the cloth cover between interactions with infected patients while leaving the disposable N95 in place against their skin.

The hospitals then sterilized the cloth masks and reused them again and again. This saved THOUSANDS of scarce N95s over the last couple of months. YOUR participation helped to make that happen!

Different hospitals had disparate methods of obtaining the masks from the public. Take a batch and show up at their front door? Oh no! Not with the risk of contagion. Baylor has 52 facilities in DFW alone. They set up drop points at hotels across the Metroplex. I had to schedule appointments with them to “make the drop” (this is starting to sound like a spy movie) at a Marriott in Plano, even for masks going to the two Frisco hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Plano wanted the masks dropped at a particular spot in a parking garage by some of their medical offices, rather than at the hospital.

The list goes on.

Neighborhood 18’s involvement began with a string of texts among the Monday Mah Jongg group. I mentioned not having time to practice with the new card due to the mask project, and Bam! The offers of help streamed in.

I felt overwhelmed with gratitude at the prospect of much-needed assistance in meeting the tremendous need for masks. Word spread quickly and each of you stepped up to do what you could to make this effort a success. Thank you so much!

Take a look at my photo album — watch for the masks that YOU worked on, make comments on pictures by clicking on the speech bubble at the bottom right, and just enjoy the fruits of our collective efforts:

There were bumps and bruises along the way. There was a worldwide run on elastic, most of which comes from China. This forced seamstresses to shift to ribbon and seam binding for mask ties instead of elastic loops . . . which led to a subsequent nationwide shortage.

Our volunteers were not daunted! Some of you cut long strips of fabric, others folded and ironed them, and seamstresses sewed seemingly endless yards into fabric ties — enough to cover the length of several football fields. Some of the elastic that we were able to get along the way began to shred when stretched; out came my seam ripper to make repairs on those masks before they could be distributed.

Since we were going through several thousands of yards of ribbon, I experimented to find a way to stretch our dwindling supply. Eventually, I designed a method to make ear loops from short pieces of elastic and ribbon, allowing us to keep up the pace of production.

Photo by Quilting Angels Massive Mask Mission

Our seamstresses learned the new method and kept on sewing. Cutters kept the pieces coming so we could fill hospital orders.

As the number of COVID-19 cases increased, we reached out to police officers, firefighters and EMTs, cashiers, nursing home personnel, cancer patients and others with immune deficiencies, and of course, vulnerable senior citizens.

YOU were an important part of our little army to fight the spread.

We raided our own fabric and craft supplies and then got permission from the HOA to empty our storage cabinets at the activity center. When that was all used up, we relied on donated fabric, elastic, thread, and ribbon. We even used sheets to make the ties!

We ordered supplies online, often waiting many weeks for them to arrive, and sometimes having the orders canceled because they were coming from China and would likely never arrive. We needed people to cut mask pieces, measure and slice strips of fabric for ties, fold fabric, iron, sew, and make pickups and deliveries.

We needed a hub to act as a clearinghouse where volunteers could pick up and drop off supplies and masks. We borrowed cutting boards, sewing machines, and rotary cutters.

Every single one of you had a task to accomplish, and without your involvement, hundreds of masks would never have been created!

We ran low on “pretty” fabrics, so we used holiday and oddball pieces as linings in order to spare attractive material for the front of masks. We made adjustments to patterns so those with arthritis could still help despite their challenges.

One of you donated boxes full of fabric perfect for the mission. Another one of you stretched your imagination to create sprays, bouquets, and other unusual designs to photograph batches of masks to add interest to the photo album. I made a Zero-Calorie Recipe based on clever photos by this neighbor of yours.

In short, the group adapted and worked around every issue that arose, keeping our eyes on the goal.

Your desire to make a positive difference during this negative pandemic enriched the success of the Massive Mask Mission.

Just think of the ripple effect that your combined contribution has had on our community and the Metroplex!

Photo by Quilting Angels Massive Mask Mission

Our Facebook page documents some of the steps along the way.

As of June 8, the Massive Mask Mission created and donated over 5,700 masks including more than 1,400 to Frisco Lakes residents and over 4,100 to these hospitals:

1. Medical City Frisco by the Tollway & Main St
2. TX Oncology in Frisco
3. TX Oncology in Dallas
4. Children’s Plano on Preston Rd
5. Baylor Frisco on Warren Parkway
6. Baylor Centennial in Frisco on Lebanon Rd
7. Baylor Plano on West Parker Rd
8. Baylor Carrollton on Josey Lane
9. Baylor Irving Obstetrics
10. Texas Health Resources Harris HEB
11. Medical City Las Colinas
12. North Dallas Veterinary Hospital
13. MacArthur Medical Center
14. St Francis Hospital of Escanaba

In “normal times”, Quilting Angels gather each Tuesday afternoon in Ballroom C to sew quilts for charity. In the three years since our group formed, we’ve comforted over 825 people with quilts. We donated them to:

· Our nation’s veterans residing in the North Texas Veterans Home in Bonham,

· Women and children at Hope’s Door New Beginnings Abuse Shelter

· Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments in cold wards

· Frisco Lakes residents who have just lost a spouse or been diagnosed with a serious illness

· Frisco Family Services clients in need

Visits photos of our quilts and scroll down to the bottom for the photo section. There are several different albums in a drop-down menu.

We also use our creativity to design unique, soothing “Fidget Quilt” sensory mats for:

· Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease

· Victims of Stroke

· Autistic individuals of all ages

· Those with Down syndrome

· Young children learning to tie, buckle, and braid

· Curious babies

For more information about and photos of Fidget Quilts, visit us on Facebook or Friscolakes.net

I am blessed to be a part of the Frisco Lakes Community, where good people pull together in uncertain times to share their time and skills to benefit strangers in need. Although I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting all of you, I am honored to consider you friends.

My heartfelt thanks to each one of you,

Maureen Schmiedel

Chair, Quilting Angels

Coordinator, Massive Mask Mission

Thank you to BeingWell for publishing this article on Medium

This article was contributed by MacArthur Medical Center’s Dr. Jeff Livingston.

Main Blog Photo by: Volha Flaxeco on Unsplash

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