HANNIBAL | A community effort to make fabric masks for health care workers and people with immunodeficiency conditions has gathered momentum since Kelsey Ryan first began making fabric face masks and requesting help Sunday on Facebook.
Ryan is a Certified Nursing Assistant, and she has many family members and friends in the health care field. She decided to put her sewing skills and fabric at her home toward addressing the critical need for protective masks during the COVID-19 crisis. Ryan posted to her personal Facebook page that she was running low on material — donations of fabric and supplies soon followed, and a friend suggested she form a group. After three days, the Hannibal Area Maskateers includes close to 200 members, and Ryan urged anyone who would like to volunteer or donate to join the effort.
“It caught me by surprise,” Ryan said.
Ryan and fellow group members have been busy cleaning, cutting and sewing fabric and distributing masks to area locations like nursing facilities in Bowling Green, Palmyra, Hannibal and the Hannibal Fire Department.
She said the Department of Health and Human Services stressed the national shortage of face masks — the agency estimated 3.5 billion N95 respirator masks would be needed for a “full-blown” coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., but the Strategic National Stockpile currently contains 35 million of the devices — one percent of what is needed.
“As far as the coronavirus going around and spreading so quickly, we're running out of masks, and we've had several people messaging us that are saying 'our facility is telling us that once we're out of masks, we're out and that's it,” Ryan said. “I don't want that to happen.”
Ryan has been picking up donations of fabric personally, maintaining social distancing before she takes them to her home to wash, dry and iron them for packaging to give to volunteers to cut pieces or assemble the masks. She sent out fabric on Monday for about 200 masks; on Tuesday she sent out fabric packages for about 150-200 masks.
“Whatever you're able to do, let us know and we will get you whatever you need to get it done,” Ryan said, commending everyone for the work they have done so far.
Lisa Marie Richardson is a fellow member of the group, and she made 88 hand-sewn masks Monday before her friend, Shana Major, donated a sewing machine for her ongoing efforts. When the news of the coronavirus came out, Richardson “went on alert” because of her health conditions and staying safe.
Richardson said she already had two masks for allergies at her home, and she modified them to offer protection from COVID-19. After that she shared those images on Facebook, people asked Richardson if she would make more.
“It's really important in this time,” Richardson said. “If you can save one person from getting it, that's enough.”
Richardson got a phone call that brought tears to her eyes from her daughter, Mandi Click. Click said her mother was a helper, sharing a quote from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood near and dear to Richardson's heart — “In times where there are bad things happening, look for the heroes. They're the helpers.”
Richardson said the Rogers' statement is “something to live by.”
“If you can make a difference in someone's life, why not?” Richardson said.
Ryan encouraged anyone who would like to volunteer or donate to visit the Hannibal Area Maskateers Facebook page — visitors can click on images directing them how to donate, how to contact group members and what work is needed. A GoFundMe link will be online soon, and Ryan set up a plastic container Wednesday at 3900 McMasters Ave. for drop-offs.
“We still need people who are willing to sew and donate fabric and cut fabric,” Ryan said. “If you can't sew — if you can cut it — let us know. It helps the process go a lot faster, because all we have to do is lay our pleats and sew.”