BUCKHANNON – With the growing number of positive results in West Virginia for the COVID-19 virus, folks are practicing social distancing and are making fewer trips outside of their homes for the essentials.
But that’s not possible for many people – including healthcare workers, firefighters, first responders, those preparing meals and delivering them to students, cashiers and others who are still working to make needed services available.
These essential employees – healthcare workers, in particular – are doing their best to keep working, while also staying as safe as possible.
However, there seems to be a shortage of personal protective equipment, namely N95 respirator masks.
In fact, Charleston Area Medical Center has posted a request for help from community members to get masks and has asked that if folks cannot help with sewing, that they help with donations of clean and new 100 percent cotton fabric and elastic for ear loops.
On their website, camc.org, CAMC has included a pattern and instructions for making masks – and when some local folks heard of the need, they worked together to make sure Buckhannon area residents were doing their part to help out with this great need.
Buckhannon resident Tom Thacker said he wanted to help with this mask project because he classifies himself as a “germaphobe.”
And his reasons are justified.
“My daughter had a liver transplant five years ago,” Thacker said. “She wears a mask anytime she goes out during flu season.”
Thacker said about a month ago when he went out to get masks for his daughter, he had some issues finding masks.
“I found enough to get her by for a few months,” Thacker said, “but the supply was diminishing. I am hearing stories that folks are having trouble getting personal protective equipment and have heard people are using handkerchiefs and such.”
He said he then saw the request from the Charleston Area Medical Center for masks.
“The request has a pattern that is approved by their hospital, so we started sharing that design,” Thacker said. “We have probably delivered material to approximately 10 people who are helping make masks, and there are others who are doing this on their own.”
Thacker said Ashland Sales and Service has employees who are volunteering their spare time to help make the masks. He said volunteers from CAMC left Charleston Monday at 3 a.m. and brought up enough material to make 500 masks. That material was delivered to Ashland Sales and Services, he said, and once the masks are completed, they will deliver them back to CAMC.
He said CAMC has 7,000 employees so they need a lot more.
“If everybody who has a sewing machine could just do a handful, it would really help,” Thacker said.
Ashland Sales and Service Supervisor Sandy Campbell said she became involved when one of the employees asked if they could help make masks for this project. Campbell said she checked with the owners and got permission for employees to use the equipment and thread before and after hours to complete the masks.
“They were good with that, so I contacted Tom Thacker and Misty Post before I contacted CAMC,” Campbell said. “We committed to make 500 masks to send to CAMC. Right now, we have committed to make about 850 masks altogether.”
Campbell said some of the workers stay over at work for an extra hour-and-a-half to sew the masks and others are coming in at 5 a.m. to work on the project on their own time.
“Some workers who have other obligations are taking material home to cut out patterns to help out,” Campbell said. “That takes the longest and uses the pattern supplied by CAMC.”
She said folks could help by picking up a pattern and cutting out the material.
“We are still taking donations,” Campbell said. “We are taking donations of 100 percent cotton, flannel and 2 mm round cord elastic.”
Folks who complete masks, cut out materials or make donations may drop supplies off at Ashland Sales and Service, located at the corner of Lumber and Florence streets in Buckhannon.
“Once the masks are completed, I will call CAMC and they will send a representative to come and pick up the finished masks,” Campbell said. “All together, there are approximately 50 people helping with this project.”
Campbell said she is so appreciative of all the donations and for those who are cutting and sewing the masks.
“It makes our job a lot easier,” she said. “It’s great that we can donate our time and make something useful for the community.”
Misty Post, who operates the Facebook page ‘Buckhannon Events,’ is another critical member who has helped gather materials and volunteers together to sew masks for CAMC. She became involved in the project because she wanted masks made for the teachers, bus drivers and school workers that are passing out food.
“Tom and I are good friends, and I support local businesses, including Tom’s business,” Post said. “He had his mask ideas and commented on one of the Facebook ‘Buckhannon Events’ posts and asked if the sewing factory was still open. I contacted the Ashland Sales and Service and we asked them if they could help make the masks.”
Post said she knows a lot of women and she and Thacker are working to get material to them so they can help sew together masks.
“I have a friend who committed to making 60 masks,” Post said. “It seems to be growing, but we hope it will grow even more and we will have more volunteers.”
Thacker said the response from the Buckhannon community is appreciated – but not surprising.
“Helping out is a typical response from residents of Buckhannon,” Thacker said. “I have seen them help out over and over. When I needed help when my daughter was sick, the town helped our family tremendously. I have seen them help others over and over again.”
Thacker said he is proud to be helping and proud to be a member of the Buckhannon community.
“They are ready to help and as long as they know what they are to do, Buckhannon residents will help,” Thacker said. “I love Buckhannon and the people – it’s an amazing place.”
Additional information is available by calling Misty Post at 304-439-8353 or on her Facebook page Buckhannon Events. To learn more about how you can help CAMC with the mask-making program, click here.