Huge mask-making project launched here SanTan Sun News

Huge mask-making project launched here

September 24th, 2020 Editorial Staff
Huge mask-making project launched here
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By Jim Walsh
Staff Writer

Volunteers are mobilizing to sew 600,000 medical-grade face masks for use in hospitals throughout the Phoenix area as the masks become a part of everyday life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Arizona Masks for Medical Workers project is patterned after a similar project in Salt Lake City sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its community service arm, JustServe.org and LDS Charities.

But Jennifer Wheeler, a church spokeswoman, said the mask undertaking is an ecumenical project that also involves Catholic and Protestant churches, with everyone united in the goal of protecting medical workers.

“We are thrilled to be working side by side with many different faith groups to sew masks for our valued healthcare providers,’’ Wheeler said.

In the East Valley, the Central Christian Church is participating through it’s Mesa and Gilbert campuses. To learn more about the project, go to AZMasksforMedicalWorkers.org.

“We invite all who are able and willing to sew medical grade masks to join us as we work together to ensure that caregivers battling COVID-19 have the equipment they need to stay safe.  Your personal contributions to this effort will help save lives,’’ the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is recruiting 6,000 volunteers to pick up 6,000 kits of pre-cut materials for making the masks next week and sew them together.

Each kit contains enough materials to make 100 masks, including pre-cut pieces of polypropylene and either elastic or fabric ties. The goal is to produce the masks during a four-week period.

Each mask is expected take about five to 10 minutes to sew, depending upon the volunteer’s experience and each kit taking 10-15 hours.

A self-help video is included on the JustServe.org website, along with instructions on where to pick up and drop off the completed kits. The project kicked off on Saturday.

“All we are trying to do is serve, working shoulder to shoulder in the community,’’ said Debbie Jensen, a community outreach specialist for JustServe in west Mesa.

“This is the best of both worlds. They can do it from home and make a big difference,’’ Jensen said.

Although we live in a disposable world, Jensen said there are many women like her who love to sew and sewing remains a major industry. She said enthusiasm for the service project is running high, with people calling her steadily, asking for details.

She said sewing the masks is easy, although she expects to receive plenty of calls from volunteers asking for additional instruction.

“If someone owns a sewing machine and they can sew a straight stitch, that’s all they need to do,’’ Jensen. “This is really easy. Anyone can do this with a little bit of instructions.’’

Jensen said she prepared for her mission by watching the video herself and sewing some masks.

“I’ve made a ton of them. I made sure I did 20 or 30 of them so I know what I’m talking about,’’ she said.

Wheeler said that JustServe will donate the completed masks to several healthcare providers throughout the state, including the Banner Health Foundation, Valleywise Health Foundation, Dignity Health Foundation, Honor Health Foundation and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

In a statement, Banner Health thanked JustServe.org in advance for the masks, saying that they will be put to good use, but stopping short of saying they will be used by staff while treating COVID-19 patients.

Megan Brownell, vice president of communications and external relations for the Banner Health Foundation, said “Continuous masking will be routine for the foreseeable future, and nowhere is this more important than in healthcare settings.”

Andy Kramer Petersen, president and CEO of Banner Health Foundation, added that donations like these “help Banner Health to ensure adequate supplies for patients and hospital staff as we remain vigilant in slowing the spread of viruses. We sincerely appreciate this support.”

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