Neighbors come together to sew facemasks for healthcare workers

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Neighbors around Birmingham are coming together to try and sew masks for healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals and medical facilities are dealing with a nationwide shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment. After reading about an Indiana hospital asking neighbors to help sew masks, Kathy Green began organizing efforts in Alabama through Facebook.

“I quickly learned that I felt like I thought there was going to be a need and that it was probably too big for me to manage through email so I started a Facebook group,” Green said.

The group is called Face Mask Sewing for Birmingham, Ala. Healthcare and had more than 1,300 members as of Sunday afternoon. Professional seamstress Christine McNeal is among those trying to help. She also has experience in the medical healthcare industry.

“We are also working with Jefferson County Health Department. We are in touch with infectious disease doctors at UAB. We just need the masks and we will make sure we get them into the right hands to be distributed properly and also that they will be safe,” McNeal said.

McNeal said group members are working to track down supplies needed for the mask construction. Elastic is one of their greatest needs.

“I had already been trying to get supplies and was realizing that we really needed to manage the resources properly because elastic is now the new toilet paper. Just ask anybody who sews and is trying to make masks and you’ll know that elastic is in really short supply,” McNeal said.

Group members have created three different patterns based on needs in facilities. Personal protective equipment is used by healthcare professionals, front desk employees, and patients.

“People just really want to help and so we created a pattern that is simple and easy to use,” McNeal continued. “Because elastic is in short supply, our pattern only uses a foot of elastic on each side. 6 inches on each side.”

Not all members of the group have a sewing background. Many just want to find a way to give back.

“If you don’t sew, volunteer to do something else. We are organizing drop off points to take our masks to the groups that we are working with and we will need people who can drive. We may need people in the future that can just cut material,” McNeal said.

If you’d like to learn more about how to help, click here.

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