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GALENA– People all over the country are stepping up to help alleviate the shortage of face masks, and Jo Daviess County residents are no exception. Eileen Hughes of Woodbine, a member of the quilting group at St. John’s Lutheran Church at Massbach, and Suzy Newman, activities director at Prairie Ridge of Galena, have both spent hours at their sewing machines in the last couple weeks, turning out fabric masks that are being put to good use to protect against COVID-19.
Hughes typically meets once a month with a group of a dozen or so women from her church who quilt and sew hats for preemies and chemotherapy patients.
Together, the St. John’s Lutheran women rack up some impressive numbers. Last year, for example, they completed 129 tie quilts and 70 hats that they donated to various causes.
“We’re kind of isolated because we can’t meet,” said Hughes of the group.
So, when the group was asked recently by an employee of the Provena nursing home in Freeport to make masks, the women, Hughes included, wasted no time. In two days, they’d completed 65 masks, which the nursing home will use and will share with others.
Using scraps of fabric she had at her house and a pattern she found online, Hughes completed 35 washable, cotton masks on her own.
“When you’re a quilter or sew, you have a stash of fabric,” said Hughes.
She found that the first mask took the longest to complete and after that it went much quicker.
“It doesn’t take very long,” she said, explaining the process from start to finish and how she’s able to start and stop and do other things while she’s working on the mask project.
Hughes is happy to help and admitted it feels good to have something to do during this uncertain time.
“This is my time to get away from the world,” noted Hughes of her time at her sewing machine.
She said if more requests are made for masks, her quilting group is glad to offer their services and do what they can to make a difference.
Masks going fast
A couple weeks ago, Newman started making masks for employees at Prairie Ridge of Galena.
She completed 30 pretty quickly with some help early on from resident Mary Sue Klimstra who cut out the fabric and ironed on the first day of the project.
Fellow Prairie Ridge employee Pat Osmanski has also assisted with cutting out fabric so it’s ready for Newman to piece together.
Newman brought in her sewing machine from home and set it up in the activity room. Klimstra gave Newman an iron to use and there was a spare ironing board that a resident left behind after moving out.
The masks don’t last long.
“I hand them out as quickly as I’m making them,” said Newman, who also found her pattern online and is using fabric she had on hand and some donated by residents.
Newman’s goal was to make two masks for each employee. The masks are washable but not hospital-grade because they don’t have the filter.