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RSS steps up to make masks for frontline employees

SALISBURY – A handful of Rowan-Salisbury Schools employees converted the large conference room on the third floor of Wallace Educational Forum into an impromptu sewing shop to create masks for workers still in buildings and out in the field.

District Nutrition Director Lisa Altmann, who had not sewn in years, said the district has sewn masks for all bus drivers, school nutrition workers and custodians. Altmann said the district is working on masks for every one in the maintenance department. By Thursday afternoon, the group had made 230 masks.

The idea came from the Women’s Missionary Union at First Baptist Church Salisbury, which was already sewing masks. Rowan-Salisbury Schools dietitian April Chandler is a member of that group, and asked Altmann about coordinating to make masks. The group had already made almost 100 masks, which were then supplemented by the partnership with the school to reach the 230 figure.

“A friend of mine from my church had seen an article about ladies making masks for folks in their community,” Chandler said.

Chandler said the idea originated as a way for women at the church to do something during the district’s spring break, to contribute to COVID-19 relief.

“Our transportation and maintenance departments, they are right out there on the front lines and they are smiling, not complaining, just doing the hardest work I’ve ever seen them do,” Altmann said.”

School Nurse Sharon Beck helped sew and deliver masks as well. She spent more than 20 hours of her own time in the past week on the project.

“It truly is stress relief to be doing something productive,” Beck said. “As nurses it is our job to take care of people.”

Beck said some schools previously made masks for the people working there. So not all of the workers in facilities and the community needed one. Mass shortages of personal protective equipment across the country have left people who need it, including hospital workers, reusing equipment or making their own.

Kannapolis City Schools has been manufacturing face shields for community health workers with 3-D printers. Individuals in the community have been creating their own face masks to wear out in public, and others have stepped up to provide masks for health care workers, like local designer Sabrina Harris, who has made hundreds of masks for free.

Ashley Ward, another local and owner of Eastern Costume Company, has been making masks in her spare time as well.

“The main thing is keeping our staff that’s feeding our kids healthy, but also keeping our kids healthy,” Beck said.

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