Community efforts to provide masks

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The need for personal protection equipment (PPE) is imperative for those working on the front lines of battling COVID-19, something many of those workers are running out. This inspired Alton resident, Sally Groves Robbins to begin making masks as well as asking her friends to do the same.

After viewing a post by her friend, Alton native and nurse Amanda Reese, who now lives in Washington, who was asking for homemade masks as it had been cleared by the CEO of where she works, Robbins decided to get to work.

“Then, when she said she was scared, that got to me. I had to help. I got with Amanda, who told me specifically what they needed in a homemade mask,” said Robbins

Robbins researched for several days including YouTube, etc. and discussed ideas with Diana Clary, also of Alton, which technique to use. Deciding on the Jennifer Maker mask they sent 25 to Washington for Amanda and her staff.

They then donated 25 masks to Oregon County Food Pantry volunteers.

“From there it has multiplied. The key was the first three days when we first geared up. There is a purpose to social media in my life and that is to stay in touch with those people I know and that are my Facebook friends. I know everyone and they know when I need help, I ask, as I am not one to stew and brew. Immediately about 12 people jumped on board,” said Robbins.

Others that have joined in making masks to donate include Kelley Orr, Kerry Kelley, Laurel Johnson, Paula Miller, Dawn Holman, Gertie Jett, Addison Finley (Robbins’ 12-year-old niece), two of her old NHS classmates and Liz Harris of West Plains. LaDon Blankenship has made masks one a day by sewing them by hand.

Creating a factory technique and increasing production some people are cutting out patterns ahead of the masks being sewn. These include Robbins daughter, Erin Bowden, of Birch Tree and others that donate and wash the fabric including Sara Forester and Dinah Slaughter, both of Alton.

“Lots of good juju going on, a prayer goes over each and every mask,” said Robbins.

Some are making masks to sell.

The Alton Community Foundation is helping pay for materials and many individuals have donated 100 percent cotton, elastic for ear pieces, thread and sewing machine needles. The First Baptist Church in West Plains will also be contributing materials.

Recently, there was a request for 1,000 masks for West Vue Nursing Home. Robbins stated her son, Jason Robbins, informed her there was a need and asked her to contact Liz Harris.

“From there we started making masks by asking others for help. The response was immediate and masks started coming in the next day,” said Robbins.

Robbins discussed also being inspired by “Rosie the Riveter.”

“She kicked in as well as others when the need was great. Those ladies did not HESITATE to jump right in there and do what had to be done. No matter what it was. Just like those nurses who were desperate, crying out for help as soon as possible, running out of PPE. I could NOT just sit there and worry and wonder why they were not getting what they needed. I was mad, furious and upset,” said Robbins.

Robbins and Clary have each made 300 masks, of those 230 went to a nursing home in Thayer, 50 to the OMC Foundation and others to a nursing home in Alton, nurses, food pantry, daycare centers, restaurants, grocery stores, courthouse, essential personnel and anyone that needs one.

“We will continue this project until it is not longer necessary,” said Robbins.

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