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Making masks: Around the region, people joining in to help

With plans for a pajama party to collect clothing for foster children foiled by the coronavirus, Gabriela Cuddy of Albrightsville was searching for another way to help someone in need.

That opportunity opened up over the weekend when Cuddy, a Girl Scout in junior Troop 52309, saw local health care providers were asking for mask donations.

“Gabby wanted to do something to help and thought this was a really great cause,” her mother, Miriam Cuddy, said Monday. “We found a template and she worked almost all night and made around seven or eight masks that we are going to donate.”

Cuddy is planning to give the masks to the Lehigh Valley Health Network to help out their paramedics and staff who may need additional supplies. Others have already reached out on social media, putting in requests for a mask if she continues making them.

Ladybutton Fabrics in Gilbert donated a lot of the materials for the project.

“Gabby’s goal was to make 25-30, so we’re going to see how much fabric we have left at this point and go from there,” Miriam said. “She has really enjoyed making the masks she has so far.”

Brian Downs, LVHN spokesman, said anyone who has a sewing machine and sewing skills is invited to make fabric face masks for their team.

“Each person can use and reuse the same mask after laundering it,” he said in a press release issued Monday. “This helps us preserve our supply of professionally manufactured personal protection equipment. If you would like to sew face masks for LVHN, look for face mask sewing patterns and instructions on the web or use instructions (and watch video tutorials) at LVHN.org/facemask.

LVHN asks that people use tightly woven, breathable cotton fabric (preferred) or another tightly woven, breathable fabric blend, in any color or pattern. You also will need elastic banding that’s used for sewing.

Completed masks can be brought, in a clearly marked bag, box or container, to 2024 Lehigh St. in Allentown on Monday-Friday from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Downs said more locations will be announced soon.

St. Luke’s University Health Network is accepting donations of surgical masks, N-95 masks, goggles, face shields, vinyl gloves, hand sanitizer, Lysol and Clorox, including wipes. It is also accepting hospital-grade cleaning supplies and disinfectant.

Donations of fabrics will be accepted so the provider can make its own masks. Supplies needed include cotton, denim, duck cloth, canvas, twill, silk or other tight woven fabric, as well as elastic or rubber bands.

Locally, those items can be dropped off at St. Luke’s Lehighton Medical Associates, 575 S. Ninth St., Lehighton, PA 18235, Suite 7; and St. Luke’s Brodheadsville Family Practice, 111 Route 715, Brodheadsville, PA 18322.

“St. Luke’s currently has an adequate stock of necessary items, we want to remain agile by ensuring we are prepared for any shortages that might occur in the future,” the network said in a press release.

Everyone helping

Cuddy is far from the only one looking to help out.

As rain kept many people indoors Monday, social media was quickly filled with people posting pictures of their mask-making efforts, including Towamensing Elementary instructional assistant Elizabeth Campbell.

“I know these masks won’t be as effective as the medical grade ones, but they are better than nothing,” Campbell posted.

Debra Ranck, a volunteer at the Summit Hill Heritage Center, put out a call on social media for anyone who can sew and has a sewing machine to help make masks this week.

“We will also need persons who are willing to cut cloth and iron finished product,” she said. “We will be making face masks for our hospital workers and first responders. We need to be careful so we will take names of all volunteers. On Friday, there will be one person sewing for each 6-foot table. Cutting and ironing persons will also be one per 6-foot table. If we have more volunteers than tables we will schedule further days.”

People from around the region have joined in during this time of isolation. Katlyn Evans, formerly of Lehighton, has been making masks with her neighbor Paula Giusti. “We saw one post on Facebook and we’ve been going at it ever since,” Evans said.

In one day they made 30. They have it down to an assembly line. Evans does the cutting and Giusti sews.

They know quite a few nurses to pass them on to. Evans’ brother’s wife works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and her sister works in a compound pharmacy in Allentown.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health care professionals can use homemade masks for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort.

“Homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment, since their capability to protect is unknown,” the CDC’s website states. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.”

LVHN is also accepting donations of fabric bolts, 6-by-10-inch cut pieces of fabric, swatches of fabric and elastic used for sewing; as well as new and unused N95 respirators, dust masks, eye protection, goggles, face shields, boxes of nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer.

Those items can be dropped off at 2024 Lehigh St. in Allentown on Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Gabriela Cuddy sews fabric at her home in Albrightsville as she makes masks she plans on donating to the Lehigh Valley Health Network. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Gabriela Cuddy of Albrightsville made eight homemade masks she plans on donating to the Lehigh Valley Health Network.