Taking up the fight

A shortage of protective masks led Rosalie Reast, right, to research patterns and begin making them to donate to her sister-in-law and the medical community in Kerrville. She recruited more help, including retired social worker and LVN Patsy Hodges, standing, and Wesley Nurse Theresa Standage, center. They are looking for more recruits and donations of fabric and elastic.

After speaking to her sister-in-law, the director of a nursing home in McAllen, Rosalie Reast was determined to find a way to help fulfill a need during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I asked her if she needed anything and she told me they are running out of masks for the staff of the nursing home,” Reast said. “I am off for a while and am home for a while, so I researched proper specifications on the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website, checked with a couple of nurses and then found the patterns I needed to start making masks for my sister-in-law and the medical community here in Kerrville.”

Reast, who also operates the nonprofit Be Not Afraid, began contacting local people from her church and within a short period of time had some help, including two local nurses.

Patsy Hodges, a retired social worker and LVN, and Wesley Nurse Theresa Standage signed up to help right away.

“What we’re hoping is this is going to save the true PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) masks for the healthcare workers,” Standage said. “These masks will be used for people who are coming in the waiting room area so that the masks can be saved for healthcare workers.”

Standage said reports have indicated there could be a shortage of protective masks for healthcare workers because of the COVID-19 scare and the ones that their local team is working on can be used by hospital staff as well to help extend the life of their N95 masks.

“In hospitals with short supply of N95 masks healthcare workers have been covering the N95 with homemade masks to extend the use of the N95,” Standage said.

The filtration specifications the Be Not Afraid Team is using comes close to the hospital-grade masks they are trying to protect.

Standage is so passionate about the project that she had begun working on making masks herself until she learned of Reast’s efforts.

“We’ve had people ordering masks just to go to the grocery store,” Standage said. “So if they stop using those masks that are actually for healthcare workers and start using these masks, then that will help save back the supply that we truly need.”

Hodges said she is really pleased with the pattern that Reast was able to locate, saying that it makes the production much easier.

“It’s not time-consuming at all,” Hodges said.

Reast said her group is already receiving and fulfilling orders locally with eight volunteers, but more are needed.

“We have volunteers helping sew and we also have had some donations to purchase fabric, but we need more,” Reast said. “Even if you can’t sew, we need help cutting fabric and even if you know how to sew only straight lines, that’s all we need.”

Reast said she is providing the masks at no charge to the local community and much help is needed, both physical help in producing the masks and monetary donations to purchase supplies to make the masks.

“The ultimate goal is to protect the supply of masks for our healthcare professionals, who truly need them for their own protection,” Reast said. “We are getting orders daily and we are working as fast as we can to get them delivered. We will keep making them until they are no longer needed.”

According to the World Health Organization, Standage said, it is not necessary to wear a mask if you are healthy and you practice social distancing, keep from touching your face and practice proper hand-washing.

Reast said they have orders for two local nursing homes and two clinics currently and she just started the project late last week.

“One of the pediatric clinics we have orders for said they go through 200 a day,” Reast said.

Ultimately, Reast said she needs more volunteers to sew and cut fabric, and donations to purchase fabric and supplies. Reast said all donations will be tax-deductible through Be Not Afraid, the nonprofit she started a while back to assist local youth.

To volunteer or donate, citizens can contact Reast via e-mail at reast1422@yahoo.com.

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