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Mask the city: Volunteers helping with effort to keep everyone safe with face coverings

By Susan Shinn Turner

For the Salisbury Post

All over the county this time of summer, you hear the chirping of birds, the chaka-chaka-chaka of the sprinklers — and then you hear wizzzz… wizzzz … wizzzz …

That’s the sound of volunteers making masks for healthcare workers, church-goers, friends and family, young and old.

“We have our own surgical masks donated to us,” says Krista Woolly, executive director of the Community Care Clinic. “But those need to be saved for our medical people.”

So Woolly started asking for volunteers to sew masks for the clinic’s clients. Community Care Clinic provides medical care, dental care and prescription assistance to Rowan County residents ages 18 and up who are underinsured or uninsured.

“We put each mask in a bag with information about mask etiquette,” Woolly explains. “Our patients have come back for more.”

Longtime volunteer Nicholas Black has worked from home to assemble the packages.

For patients who cannot wear masks, Tamara Sheffield donated a number of small bandannas.

“They’re great,” Woolly points out.

She adds, “Since Day 1, we’ve been trying to Mask the City,” and so far, more than 2,300 masks have been made.

Others who are donated masks to the clinic have included Brenda Goodman, Edwina Ritchie, Harold and Linda Jones, Sharon Miller, Jane Britt, Bonnie Hord and Nerissa Sanders.

Hord was first tagged on Facebook in a request for masks for Trinity Oaks. She started sewing in mid-March.

“I took them to Trinity Oaks until they had enough, and I took scraps for the residents to make masks,” she says. “Then the Community Care Clinic needed some, so I put all my energy into that.”

Trinity Oaks received about 200 masks from the community before residents started making masks, says Bill Johnson, executive director. “Our staff has switched from disposable masks to N95 masks.”

Recently,  five staff cases were reported at Trinity Oaks. But those were the first that have been reported there. No residents have received a positive diagnosis as of yet.

“We’ve been very fortunate so far,” Johnson says. “We encourage residents to wear masks whenever they are out of their apartments or cottages, or out in the community.”

In addition to Trinity Oaks and Community Care Clinic, Hord has also made masks for her neighbors and family. She and husband David have two children and four grandchildren.

Woolly also told Hord that their church, St. John’s Lutheran, needed masks for the 9:27 Sunday service and the 12:15 p.m. Wednesday midweek service, so she fired up her sewing machine again.

She’s made 432 masks so far, and most of the material, elastic and nose pieces have been donated.

“Someone gave me some garbage bags ties that weren’t used and were perfectly flat,” she says. “It was like a present.”

Hord’s mother, who sewed for the public, taught her to sew in elementary school.

“Of course I had to learn everything she knew,” she says. “I am not a perfectionist, but she was.”

She’s also made pillows and curtains and “quiet books” for the grandchildren, which means she did have a lot of scraps.

Elizabeth Edwards

So does Elizabeth Edwards, who has an entire craft room in her Salisbury home. If you want to get a little fancier with your masks, Edwards can monogram one for you. She sells these masks, but she’s also donated many masks to friends and family and neighbors and students.

Edwards designed a form-fitting mask versus a pleated one.

“I had to come up with something super, super fast,” she says, because of how fast the pandemic hit.

Edwards, who has a sewing machine and an embroidery machine, has any color of embroidery thread you can imagine. She designs the monogram on a computer, then transfers it to the embroidery machine.

“It’s a process,” she says.

She’s created a lot of masks for law offices and other businesses, using their logos.

Edwards’ mom was a home ec teacher and had her own interior design business, so Edwards has been sewing all her life. She also makes jewelry, wreaths, and metal flowers.

“I don’t know what my next project will be,” she admits. “I like to do things with my hands. It’s instant gratification and it’s creative. You learn to forgive yourself.”

The best part is the fabric, though, she says. “The fabric is so much fun.”

Many of the masks she makes are reversible, and she enjoys putting different fabric combinations together.

Although masks for adults have elastic, Edwards has made children’s masks with ties to make them adjustable and as comfortable as possible.

Contact Elizabeth Edwards on Facebook for more information about her masks.

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