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‘Silent helpers’: Local costume company manager making masks for nurses, doctors

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As TV personality and neighborhood friend Mister Rogers once said, when looking at things that are bad, “look for the helpers.”

Eastern Costume Company manager and head costumer Ashley Ward is using that message to make and donate face masks to local nurses and doctors amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus.

The company is a costume store located at 112B South Main St. Since March 22, Ward has used her free time — since most of the shows on her docket have been “put on the back burner” — to create face covers for medical N95 masks to provide an extra layer of protection for health care workers.

And on Monday, she was able to donate masks to her local CVS Pharmacy and to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Health, where her mother has been receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

She’s made up to 75 masks as of Thursday, and she’s cut out enough fabric to make another 100 masks.

“I can be sad about the shows not happening,” she said. “Or I can get to work.”

The masks only take 6.5 minutes to sew together once the cloth is washed and dried. Washing and drying the fabric, which has to be 100% cotton, is an important step that not only sanitizes, but also allows the threads to tighten and thus be more protective over the N95 face masks, she said. She uses two 6 x 9 rectangular pieces of fabric and two 7-inch strips of elastic that are about a quarter-inch in width.

She is, however, running low on elastics and has had trouble finding any at local stores and Amazon. Most orders won’t be delivered until next month, she said.

But until then, she’ll continue making as many masks as she can with the materials she has on hand. After that, she’ll make straps that can tie.

So far, Ward, who lives in Guilford County, has only been able to contribute to Guilford County due to the county-issued shelter-in-place order. But she’s happy to contribute to Rowan County, she said.

Eastern Costume Company has been active on Facebook to show locals how to make their own masks. A tutorial video can be found here.

Ward encourages others to do their part in helping the community and being “silent helpers” during this time.

“If we have a skill and have the ability to help out, we should,” she said. “It’s not really about us. It’s about helping the community.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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