When the United States military needed masks, a sewing circle in Oklahoma City answered the call.
“I sew a lot of masks, cut masks, and I deliver masks. So no, I've made a couple hundred already.“
So far, the group of about 10 women has made more than 1,700 face masks. Dr. Rosemary Eskridge’s team was already sewing blankets on behalf of the Red Cross, so it was easy to switch to masks. The challenge was safely exchanging materials and patterns to the circle that included people in their 80s and 90s.
“We get about a minute from their house, we call them, and they set the stuff on the porch. And we put on our mask, and we go get it off the porch. So we leave them a bag. So then we get back in the car.”
They pride themselves on variety.
“So right here, this is a duck bill. See how it does that? So you've got room to breathe.”
The layered masks are distributed to the VA hospital and nearby Fort Sill outside of Lawton, Oklahoma, where the commanding officer wasn’t thrilled with one of the designs.
“He just said, if you were a guard at the gate, and you have on, you know, Flintstones or something like that, then that's not very authoritarian. So he asked us if we could make khaki masks.”
In April, Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued guidelines that members of the military must wear face coverings in public. That included family members on base and in places like the commissary.
Like many places across the country, the military and VA hospitals have had their fair share of coronavirus outbreaks.
“The military and veteran hospitals are still open. And we really want the medical professionals to have the PPE materials that they need. So these face coverings are really just an alternative to that when the medical grade isn't necessary."
Eskridge’s sewing circle isn’t the only group across the country making masks for the military. In fact, it’s not the only group in history to voluntarily sew masks for the troops during a pandemic.
“This initiative was really inspired by our work during the worldwide pandemic influenza outbreak that happened back in 1918, 1919. “
That’s when people across the country voluntarily made hundreds of thousands of masks for the military during WWI.
Eskridge, the daughter of a veteran, says like those volunteers, her group is in it for the long haul.
“If it protects one family where ... people don't get sick, then that thing that's worth our time, just being able to help.”
Amber Strong, Newsy, Northern, Virginia.