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‘We’ve got this’: Area crafters step up to make face masks

News Photo by Julie Riddle Quilter Marlene Rogers stitches/irons one of the colorful masks she’s making to help her neighbors breathe a little easier.

LINCOLN — “It’s something I can do to help,” said Lincoln resident Marlene Rogers as she sewed a neat row of stitches down one side of a face mask.

In a time when even breathing can feel dangerous, groups and individuals, from a Hubbard Lake sewing group to an Alpena Community College basketball player and his mom, are turning sewing machines into power tools as they sew masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in Northeast Michigan as of Tuesday afternoon. Statewide, nearly 1,800 cases have been reported, with 24 deaths. Hospitals have dealt with shortages of key equipment, including masks.

Pulling squares and tidbits of fabric from her quilting stash, Rogers has created dozens of face coverings, following a pattern shared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Alpena hospital, like others around the country, are asking residents to donate all kinds of personal protective equipment, including hand-sewn masks. More information is available at midmichigan.org/covid19.

Rogers dropped eight masks off at the Lincoln pharmacy on Tuesday morning.

Handmade masks have gotten some flak on social media, she said, because they aren’t able to completely stop the spread of sickness.

“We know they’re not surgical masks,” she said. “I mean, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that.”

Still, she said, “something is better than nothing.”

Coffee or vacuum filters can be used to form a waterproof barrier between a face and the washable, colorful fabric masks, she’s heard.

In a community that’s mostly seniors, Rogers said, she wanted to find some way to help her neighbors. She’s putting a bin at the end of her driveway, hoping to keep it full of masks that anyone can take if they need one.

Rogers estimates she’s made over 50 of the masks, including a handful requested by a woman from downstate who wants them for her physician daughter.

A retired teacher accustomed to preparing projects for roomfuls of students, Rogers fell easily into an assembly line-style production. As she makes the masks, she moves through a series of stations in her craft-room basement, taking cheerful fabric from flat rectangles to pleated, two sided masks.

She’s run out of elastic to create over-ear loops, Rogers said, and stores are out. She ordered more online, but has heard Amazon isn’t making deliveries, anymore. It is, though its operations have been affected and the company’s trying to prioritize delivery of groceries and medical supplies.

Black hair bands make a good substitute, Rogers said. The crafter grabs ribbons, bias tape, or anything at hand to put the masks together, and, she said, when she runs out of a supply, “I just punt.”

An avid quilter, Rogers digs through her personal stores of fabric to find cheerful patterns for the masks. She tries to find a few toned-downed fabrics, as well, for the men who “aren’t going to want to be running around with popsicles on their faces.”

It’s a little project, one that is just a little something one person can do to fight against a big enemy.

But, Rogers said, it’s something she can do to help people feel better and to take care of the people around her.

A neighbor who stopped by to drop off a box of ribbon and elastic greeted Rogers with an elbow bump. If anyone needs anything, she’d be happy to go to the store for them, the visitor volunteered.

The two compared notes about other residents of the neighborhood, agreeing they ought to check on the 90-something-year-old couple down the road.

“We’ve got this, girlfriend,” Rogers said.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

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