Oregonians Sew and Donate Thousands of Cloth Masks

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Oregon sewing enthusiasts have stepped up to provide cloth face coverings for friends, family, neighbors, and first responders

OREGON – In response to Governor Kate Brown’s and Oregon Health Authority’s encouragement for Oregonians to wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes, local sewing groups have risen to the challenge. 

Many groups across the state have actively been making thousands of cloth face coverings for their neighbors, friends, and family members.

Maria Michalczyk is the co-founder of the statewide group Pandemic Volunteer Mask Makers of Oregon. She reported that they have created close to 12,000 face coverings to date. 

After connecting with a local doctor who posted about the statewide PPE shortages on the website Next Door, Michalczyk (a retired nurse) decided to create a Facebook group to mobilize sewing enthusiasts across the state. 

As of early May, 510 members joined the group who sew, donate material, donate supplies, or deliver masks. 

“We set up a structure in the beginning to make sure the face coverings meet CDC guidelines,” Michalczyk said. “Our mission at the beginning was to support healthcare professionals, but we’ve found that people have reached out to us from all walks of life looking for face coverings.” 

For example, a few weeks ago, there was an outbreak on the Warm Springs tribal land. The Pandemic Volunteer Mask Makers network was able to make 150 face coverings available within 24 hours. More recently, the group is working on a project to supply face coverings to home care workers. This group has delivered face coverings to Dallas, Prineville, Grand Ronde, King City, Tigard, Monmouth, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Transition Projects in Portland…and many more, some even out of state. 

“It makes me cry to see the outpouring of generosity and kindness for people in this group,” Michalczyk said. “This is a positive place for people to help each other.” 

Pandemic Volunteer Mask Makers are always collecting materials and supplies to continue to produce face coverings. Anyone who wishes to donate can email [email protected] 

Other groups providing cloth face coverings during these unprecedented times include Crafters Against COVID-19 PDX, which is coordinating more than 7,000 volunteers. Portland area businesses like Garnish and Looptworks are fulfilling large-scale orders for organizations with frontline workers who continue to work on-site, such as airport and marine facilities. Here are a few Oregon businesses that continue to produce cloth face coverings: Flipside Hats, Settlemiers Jackets, Portland Garment Factory, Calibration Cornhole Co., and many more.

Making Face Coverings Brings ODOT Team Together

Most Oregonians know that face masks are difficult to find in stores right now. The Oregon Department of Transportation’s District 3 Maintenance in Salem office found a way to keep crews – and coworkers – safe: they made around 250 masks themselves.

District staff members donated the fabric and materials to make the masks. The administrative and permit staff cut the patterns and did the sewing. The effort brought the whole team together – all while remaining safely apart.

Oregon Department of Forestry has placed an order for 15,000 protective cloth face coverings for non-fireline use by staff. These are being made by adults in custody at South Fork Forest Camp as well as purchased through Oregon Corrections Enterprises.

The Oregon Health Authority has issued guidance for how and when to wear cloth face coverings, and encourages Oregonians to also consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s  guidance on face coverings as well.

About Author

Riley Skelton is a Region 2 Community Affairs for Oregon Department of Transportation.

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