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Stitching Together A Cause

Area Groups Organize To Make Masks For Health Professionals

Mary Brooks, a longtime nurse, has helped organize a mask-making community to send handmade masks to the New York City area, considered the epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Brooks hopes to send 250 masks by this week. Submitted photos

Several area residents and organizations are stitching together a cause to help those on the front lines battling the coronavirus.

Among those producing handmade masks for first responders and health care workers are Ellen and Daniel Tyler of Bemus Point and Mary Brooks of Randolph. All three are part of a patchwork network of volunteers who are hoping to get the masks to emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors and even the elderly as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across New York state.

Brooks is a longtime nurse who has worked at several health care facilities, including UPMC Chautauqua and Brooks Memorial Hospital. She helped create the “Mask Makers of Western New York” Facebook page to coordinate local mask makers and to share supplies among its members. The goal, she said Tuesday, is to collect about 250 masks to send to a contact in the New York City area, the epicenter for the virus outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Brooks told The Post-Journal. “My prayers and my hope is that all nurses and health care workers have the protection that is recommended by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).”

By word of mouth, and with the help of the Facebook page, Brooks said more than 150 masks had been collected by Tuesday morning. She said the masks, made in a variety of colors and patterns, are not meant to be the first line of defense for health care workers but rather an extra layer of protection at a time when medical supplies have been limited.

Ellen Tyler is pictured with some of the masks she has made with her husband in the last few days.

“We’re trying to help in anyway we can,” Brooks said. “Masks aren’t going to fall out of a tree. … We are all working together, and I hope we can all work together to make this happen.”

At the moment, the masks can be dropped off at the East Randolph United Methodist Church, 122 Church St., Randolph; masks are also being collected at the Zion Covenant Church, 520 Fairmount Ave., Jamestown.

Elsewhere, Ellen Tyler knew she needed to use up all of the cotton fabric she had lying around her home. The material had begun to take up space, and an attempt to make dresses to send to Africa didn’t take off.

Now, the Bemus Point resident and her husband have found the perfect project that will put the fabric to good use and potentially help others in the process. Beginning Saturday, Ellen Tyler and her husband began producing masks that can be worn by medical professionals or those wanting to take extra precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellen Tyler said she saw a post on Facebook detailing the need for masks and other medical supplies. Her husband is retired from UPMC Chautauqua after 30 years as a nurse, and the two figured making masks would be one way to help out during a time of uncertainty.

“I have tons of material people have gifted me,” Ellen Tyler said of her supplies. “I’ve been trying to find something to do with it.”

In a sort of assembly line system, Daniel Tyler cuts the elastic, while Ellen Tyler sews the masks together. On Saturday, the pair managed to produce 100 masks.

Not wanting to overdue it, Ellen Tyler said they are aiming to make about 50 masks each day, or until supplies run out.

“He’s definitely my support system,” Ellen Tyler said of her husband in the production. “He cuts the elastic and cuts all the extra threads, then I run them through the machine. He also gives me back massages.”

Daniel Tyler reached out to UPMC Chautauqua about donating the masks. He said they can be worn over the disposable N95 masks used by hospital workers and can be washed and worn again.

“They were very accepting,” Daniel Tyler said of the hospital.

Added Ellen Tyler: “I didn’t want to make and have them sitting around. I know there are older people who are afraid to go out. We’ve been giving them out to older people who have been asking about them.”

On Monday, Brian Durniok, UPMC Chautauqua president, said individuals and organizations looking to donate masks can contact UPMC’s supply chain department.

“This way we can make sure the donations meet the appropriate safety standards,” he said. “We are prepared to work with people if they have items for us to consider.”

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