Health care providers everywhere face a shortage of personal protective equipment—including masks.
A lot of people are stepping in to fill the breach with homemade masks, including Laurie McGarrity of Havertown, owner of The Hearth, a popular Irish eatery opened only six months ago.
She became aware of the dire need through contacts on social media, including a lot of nurses. McGarrity is a longtime crafter, so responding to the need was right up her alley.
“A lot of my nurse friends said on social media that they are reusing their masks, or they were running low,” McGarrity says. “So for me it was one of those things where, if you’re able to do it and you’re home anyway, you might as well help. I had all the supplies here, so I just figured I’d chip in and do whatever I could.”
Using patterns she found on the internet, McGarrity began sewing the masks early this week in a variety of brightly colored cotton re-washable fabric. The patterns were published by a health organization. Some masks are big enough to cover the preferred N95 masks, and others are smaller to fit the faces of nurses and other providers who have no masks at all.
“I am using up whatever I have, as long as it’s 100 percent cotton and a tightly woven material,” she says. “They say that’s the best to use. And I’ve had a lot of donations as well, which is really nice. People have been dropping materials on my porch, like elastic and material that can be used. The elastic is the thing that’s in demand because it’s a specific thickness that’s used around the ears. It’s a thing you run low on because you use so much of it. Amazon Prime ran out instantly as soon as everybody started making them, so the community has really come together and given me what they have. I know there a couple of other people in the community making them as well.”
When we spoke to her on Tuesday, she’d already made about 30 and was gearing up for more.
“I had about 10 pickups from nurses and people in the medical field,” she says. “They didn’t take all 30. They weren’t being greedy. They were just asking for one or two that they could reuse. They asked for maybe two each. I’m hoping to get 20 or 30 done a day, now that I have more patterns cut out. And I have a few nurses who are relying on them by the weekend, so I’m going to try to distribute those. There are some who work in nursing homes, too, and they’re running really low. They’re dealing with the elderly, many of whom have fevers, so this will definitely set their minds at ease that they’ll be a little bit protected. And there also places you don’t think about, like birthing centers. I had people reach out from those because the patients even need them now—not just the nurses and the midwives, but the patients have to wear them, too. And the good thing is, they can be reused once they’re washed in hot water.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, health care providers have been grateful. Some have offered to pay for them, but McGarrity is donating them at no cost.
“It’s all just to give people peace of mind,” she says. “It’s been great. People are definitely in need of them. I even had a couple of people from Philadelphia come to pick up a couple because they really, really need them. People are just scared.
As for McGarrity herself, a County Tyrone native and mother of three, she’s happy to have something to keep her hands busy amid all the difficulties and isolation triggered by COVID-19. “I have a restaurant we had to close down because of this situation,” she says. “It helps keep your mind off being worried about everything you could possibly lose. It is worrisome. So at least it gives you a little bit of something to take your mind off everything else.”
To help out, contact Laurie at email@example.com.