Volunteers needed to sew 5,000 masks for Leon County teachers

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 10:44 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - For months, an army of volunteers have spent thousands of hours stitching together medical-grade masks for front-line workers across the Big Bend.

Now, this group faces its steepest challenge yet.

The Mask Marvel Project is a grassroots volunteer campaign that began early in this pandemic, using months of trial-and-error to fine-tune its output. Its handiwork caught the attention of Leon County Public Schools officials, who are searching for masks that offer better protection than just cotton.

Mask Marvel creates masks using the “Halyard 600″ material, or H600. Organizer Ruth Chase first learned of the material after reading about a University of Florida initiative.

The material is often used to wrap surgical supplies at hospitals. Once unwrapped, it’s usually discarded. But UF researchers realized it’s great at filtering air, and decided it could be recycled as masks.

“It could be saving lives and they throw it away,” Chase said while sorting through materials at the group’s HQ at Lafayette Presbyterian Church off Mahan Drive.

“These are really frustrating masks to make, but it’s well worth the effort,” she said. Sewers can’t use pins or iron with the H600 material.

About 10,000 masks have been sent to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which started sharing leftover H600 material with the volunteer group. Thousands more went to smaller clinics and even poll workers for the upcoming election season.

Now, they’re racing to make masks for educators.

“They’re going to be in a very vulnerable position,” Chase said.

The decision for LCS to ask Mask Marvel came after consulting with TMH for ways to supply staff with quality masks, according to a district spokesperson.

The district wants the 5,000 masks by Aug. 17, according to Chase. It’s a tough bet, but the group forges ahead.

“You might as well decide you’re going to do it and do your best.”

Chase said the group has seen roughly 125 volunteers help with the project, but they’ll need plenty more to meet the LCS demand.

They’re looking for people who already know how to sew, and can overcome the difficulties of the fabric.

Those interested in helping out should show up to a drive-thru at the church to receive mask-making kits. The Mask Marvel Facebook page has more information on how to make a difference.

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