Volunteers sew masks to aid healthcare workers

As plenty of people are looking for new in-home activities, a fairly familiar hobby is finding a way to help those fighting the coronavirus.

"People are really happy to chip in they want to be part of something good when everything seems so gloomy," said Gina Livingston of Decatur.

Area volunteers sewed masks for healthcare workers, to be used in addition to medical-grade masks

Last week, Livingston got a call from a friend who is a doctor at a local hospital. The doctor knew Livingston liked to sew, so the friend asked if she'd sew a few face masks; a type of test run just in case supplies ran short at the hospital. Livingston asked for help in a Facebook group for other people who liked to sew and do other crafts.

Soon, there was a large response: both from people volunteering to help, and others asking for donations for different health care providers. Five days after that first phone call, Gina is helping run a Facebook group, called "Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals (COVID-19)", with about 3,000 members. It is an effort merged with several other groups that had started with similar goals.

"It feels really good to be part of something that feels like we can help," said Livingston.

The group uses designs that are approved by hospitals. A key piece of information: these masks are not intended to replace the medical-grade masks worn by doctors and nurses. These masks, made from softer fabric, can be used in addition to those masks, worn at the same time. They could also be given to patients to wear, or whatever the hospital sees fit. The more complicated masks have pockets, designed to insert filters to make them even more effective.

"We're really leaving it up to the hospital facilities to figure out how they can best be used," said Livingston. "We know that there's a need for them, and we've been reached out to by the hospitals."

Other local volunteers are working on projects of their own.

In Grant Park, Gigi Gould has a pile of face masks destined for health care providers piling up in Ziploc bags on her porch. Last Friday, a friend who works in health care called and asked if she could help make face masks. She posted a call for help on Nextdoor, the community message board app. As of Monday, she had over a dozen people volunteering to help. The goal is 500 masks ready to donate by Tuesday afternoon.

"It's amazing, people are coming out of the woodwork to help out," said Gould. "And they want to continue. They said, 'do you have more to do after this?' I said, 'I'm sure we will.'"

Both groups ask volunteers to drop off the masks without any person-to-person contact. Hospitals can wash and sanitize them before use.

The "Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals" Facebook group offers 31 locations to drop off finished masks. Other volunteers will collect and sort them. 

"The biggest thing we can all do is just stay home, but while you're at home, if there's a way you can contribute something good, I think everybody feels pretty good," said Livingston.

If you would like to help, go to the group's Facebook page. There, you can find links to designs. They have also partnered with Topstitch ATL, a sewing studio, with tutorials to get people started sewing. If you can't sew, the group is also accepting donations for supplies, with over $2,000 raised so far.