Locals making masks for health care professionals, others in need


A woman pulled her vehicle into the Schneck Foundation parking lot on Thursday and asked if she was in the right place to drop off face masks.

She then placed a bag on the sidewalk, and it was picked up and taken inside the building at 415 S. Walnut St., Seymour.

The face masks will be distributed to health care professionals to keep them protected during the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Stephanie Flinn, the foundation’s executive director, was outside the building Thursday when the donation was made. That came after Tom Day and Jan Boram with Home Products International dropped off a box of face masks made by employees at the Seymour company.

“It’s surreal. It’s overwhelming, honestly,” Flinn said. “There are a lot of emotions right now. There’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of anxiety. But in a community like ours, there is overwhelming support, and people are coming together in all the ways they know how.”

Lately, her office has been flooded with phone calls and emails from people asking how they can help.

“People are smiling when they drop off. They are happy to be able to do something, and I am so thankful for people who have these skills,” Flinn said.

“It’s humbling. So many people caring together, it’s overwhelming, and it’s an honor for us to be able to (assist),” she said. “It is at a time where it’s too easy to be socially distant. Because of social media, we are now social distancing from a distance, but we are coming together in a whole new way. It is a fantastic thing to assist with because we all have different ways to do it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published strategies for optimizing the supply of face masks for the health care industry.

Addressing protocol in a crisis situation, specifically when no mask is available, the CDC said handmade masks might be used, ideally in combination with a face shield.

Local home sewists heard the call, and in a short matter of time, kindhearted people were hard at work at their home sewing machines.

A Facebook group was created to organize area sewists, while collection and distribution processes were developed at Schneck Medical Center.

The Schneck Foundation is collecting masks made from a pattern published by Deaconess Hospital in Evansville. People should call the foundation at 812-524-4244 or email [email protected] to schedule a drop-off time between 1 and 3 p.m. weekdays at its office.

The second location is Immanuel Lutheran Church, 605 S. Walnut St., Seymour. Drop masks in the box just inside the main office door on Oesting Street between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Any style of handmade mask is accepted.

The masks are being distributed to Schneck and local long-term care facilities. By Friday evening, Flinn said 600 masks will have been delivered to all four nursing homes in Jackson County.

Facebook group created

The Facebook group is called Jackson County (Surrounding) Areas–Face Mask Sewing Group. It was started by Katlynn Schnitker, Katy Rudzinski and Tara Hatfield.

Schnitker said after talking to friends in Chicago and Indianapolis, she realized there was a need for people to make face masks for nurses.

Once she made some, she posted about it on Facebook. Within the first 20 minutes, a nursing home employee reached out.

“It just blew up,” Schnitker said. “People were just like, ‘This isn’t just in Indy. The need is here now in Jackson County.’”

Rudzinski and Hatfield came on board, and the Facebook group was created to unite seamstresses in the Jackson County area interested in donating face masks for local health care professionals.

In a week, the group has 145 members. Some are seamstresses, while others are interested in donating sewing machines, fabric, elastic and money toward the cause.

The face masks are free to health care providers, including hospitals and nursing homes.

“These people are risking their lives, potentially infecting themselves or other people. There’s no way I could charge for it,” Schnitker said. “We’re trying to get them to people on the front lines, people who need them. I have tons of family and friends that work in the health care system, and I just want to try to help as many people as possible.”

Others help out

Heidi Wheatley, Jenny Engelau and Sherry Settle are among local residents making face masks.

Wheatley, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Schneck, said she started making masks at the end of February with the anticipation of a shortage of them in the community and at the hospital.

“I found a pattern and have now made masks for all of my co-workers in my unit at the hospital. I have also made them for family and friends,” she said. “My niece, Elsie Herbert, recently came over and helped me to make several masks. She learned to sew for 4-H and was a huge help with the masks.”

She said her co-workers appreciate acts of kindness, so she knew they would love the handmade face masks.

“Right now, they have them available for errands or when needing to be out around others, but most importantly, they have them in case we will need them at work down the road,” Wheatley said. “Everyone’s careers, professions and daily routines have changed from COVID-19, so it’s safe to assume that daily routines have changed for health care workers today in comparison to a few months ago.”

Engelau and her daughter, Kennedy, have been making masks. Kennedy cuts the fabric, and her mom does the sewing.

“I just posted on Facebook on my personal page that we were making them at no cost for anyone that needed them,” Engelau said. “We give first priority to health care workers, first responders, people out in the community providing services (food pantry and ministries) and individuals with compromised immune systems that have to be out in the public.”

They offer porch pickup at their home in Bartholomew County close to the Jackson County line to maintain social distancing.

“We ran out of supplies from what we already had on hand, and a couple of friends dropped off more material, elastic and thread,” Engelau said. “We are hoping to help a few people while passing the time of being at home.”

Engelau’s mother, Sue Mulder, also has been sewing from her home and has made several masks for people to pick up.

“The masks are going out faster than we can sew them right now,” Engelau said.

Settle said she was contacted by someone at the Columbus Post Office, and a woman drove down and left fabric and elastic to make 60 face masks.

“I was a little taken back when the lady asked me what I was charging per mask,” Settle said. “I told her if she could provide the material, I’d make the masks to protect her people. Why would anyone with the resources charge? I don’t think that’s right. They need these. We need to stick together. I’ll make as many as I can with the supplies I have at no charge.”

She also made some for her daughter’s friends who work in health care, and she’s sending some to nursing homes and the hospital.

“With all the fabric I have, it’s the least I can do,” Settle said.

Businesses shift focus

The Fussy Pup in downtown Seymour, which typically makes cookie cutters, recently started making face masks.

Then co-owner Charles Wolfe decided to stop that because there was too much contact, so the business is now giving away free sewing kits and elastic outside the store at 204 W. Second St.

Each kit has enough fabric and elastic to make eight masks.

“Please only take what you can make. We will continue to set these kits out multiple times a day if the demand is still high,” Wolfe posted on the business’ Facebook page. “We will be setting these kits out until we have no more resources to do so. We want to help as many people mask up as we can. Let’s be careful out there.”

With Home Products’ donation of nearly 1,500 face masks Thursday, Day said that’s just the start. The company is still making its staple product, ironing boards, but also turned its attention toward making face masks.

“Somebody said, ‘Why couldn’t we turn an ironing board cover into a mask?’” said Day, the company’s director of operations.

Home Products makes some ironing board covers in-house, and others are sewn elsewhere. Either way, they are made of 100% cotton in the United States, so it suits the need right now.

“We’ve got the two machines that are cranking this out and two people that are cutting and sewing. We’ve got the long sewing tables,” Day said. “Everybody is getting a little bit of the food chain on this one, so it’s a good thing. It’s just an opportunity for us to try to give back a little bit.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Schneck Foundation is collecting masks made from a pattern published by Deaconess Hospital in Evansville (deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask). People should call the foundation at 812-524-4244 or email [email protected] to schedule a drop-off time between 1 and 3 p.m. weekdays at its office, 415 S. Walnut St., Seymour.

The second location is Immanuel Lutheran Church, 605 S. Walnut St., Seymour. Drop masks in the box just inside the main office door on Oesting Street between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Any style of handmade mask is accepted.


No posts to display