BY D’ARCY EGAN
The face masks that we’re wearing these days will help thwart the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but they can be very difficult to find. Marnie McAtee of Marblehead and her crew of tireless workers are trying to solve that unexpected problem in a very friendly way.
The face masks that the McAtee’s helpers and friends are creating are all unique, and they’re free.
“This all started because my daughter-in-law, who works for Hospice of Northwest Ohio, did not have enough masks for the staff. So I let everyone in the Port Clinton area know we were looking for materials and donations.”
The response was overwhelming, she said. The manufacturing phase was a bit difficult.
“We did not realize how many steps it took to make a single mask,” said Trava Wahlers-Burkholder of Port Clinton. “You have to wash, iron and cut the material, and go through the various steps to make the masks. Then we seal them in plastic in packs of 24 masks.”
Last on the list is delivering the masks, with McAtee’s husband, Dave, covering a lot of miles.
“The group started sewing masks for Magruder Hospital, where they were in short supply,” said McAtee. “We’ve now sent them almost 800 masks to cover doctors, nurses and hospital personnel, as well as patients.”
There is no rhyme nor reason for the patterns for the masks, said McAtee. It all depends on the donated materials they get from a wide variety of sources.
“We have 40 volunteers who are actively sewing, and more than 250 people on our Facebook page who are always donating materials, from fabric to thread to even an old garage sale sewing machine,” said McAtee, with a laugh. Peggy Horgan of Lakeside, who joined us on a FaceTime call, has been notorious for all of her help in finding or purchasing materials.
The group has had people ask to see their catalog, so they can order the pattern they like. With an all-volunteer army of mask makers, that’s not their business plan.
In their business plan are donations, which works both ways. They embrace a little financial help to buy materials, but this week donated $960 to Bistro 163, the noted pay-it-forward restaurant that has been giving out delicious carryout meals for many weeks.
They don’t charge for a mask, and can’t make any to order.
“It all depends on the donated materials,” said Kris Lorensen of Port Clinton.
“I timed it out the other day, to see how long it took me to make one mask,” said Wahlers-Burkholder. “It took 35 minutes! That’s why my regular chores are not getting done. I’m too busy making masks!”
All of the women questioned at the Port Clinton gathering expects that they’ll be in business for quite a while.
“The virus isn’t going to go away any time soon,” said McAtee. “And neither are we. We’re in this for the long haul.”