In this time of social distancing I joined a joyful sewing circle by speakerphone recently to find out what the group has been up.

“It’s all Heidi’s fault,” said Sam Sibley laughing.

Joining us on the conference call were Linda Masucci and Heidi Hess. As I sorted out the voices, I discovered the trio was at Masucci’s home where they meet about twice a week (staying a safe distance apart) to make masks.

They are giving the colorful masks away free to anyone who needs one.

“As a nurse I felt like I had to do something,” said Hess. “Whatever I could do to protect the towns I love.”

“We are fighting something that is an airborne pathogen,” she added. “This virus is something that is airborne in droplets. If you are anywhere near someone coughing, sneezing or laughing (the virus) can enter through your nose, mouth or eyes, so a mask is a barrier to entry for your nose and mouth.”

Many people don’t know how to wear a mask properly, so here are a few tips.

While wearing a mask, keep your hands off your face and leave it on until you get home.

If you have to take it off while out, follow these best practices.

Wash your hands and then insert a finger under the mask to remove it.

When you get home, Hess recommends it goes straight into the wash, hand or machine. The group is generally giving people two masks so they always have a clean one handy.

The trio researched what material to use and found they had plenty of existing fabric on hand.

“We made them with fabric so people can wash them multiple times,” Hess said. She went to a University of Rochester website to find the best fabrics for filtering.

“All of the fabric we have came from Linda or the Senior Center,” said Hess.

“There is a pocket for inserts and all of them are quite thick.”

The user can insert a coffee filter or paper towel or other filter material.

“Linda is the seamstress and does a lot of work,” said Sibley said of the biweekly gathering. “We get together to assemble them and then go home with homework.”

Sibley and Masucci said that they are practicing social distancing, but that since they started this project together, they feel comfortable continuing to work together.

“We all committed that we haven’t been anywhere, we are abiding by the social distancing rules,” Sibley said.

Distribution started with local essential businesses.

“We have a lot of visitors and people are still working in our town,” said Hess.

And now it’s word of mouth, friends and social media. Anyone who wants one can have one.

“They are gone before we sit down to make the next batch,” Sibley added.

“If even one person in Pine-Strawberry is saved from all this effort, then it will be worth it,” said Hess.

All three ladies have a Facebook page; you can reach them there if you would like a mask. You can also reach out to me and I can connect you.

You can also find information on cloth masks at the website: http://www.cdc,gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html.

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