Parishioners Create Project Mask – WS

by Nancy Montgomery

In the midst of this Coronavirus crisis, one of the most positive things we can do is to look at the needs directly in front of us, here and now, and take action on something we can control.  An inspiring example of this has emerged in the past few weeks as several St. Paul’s parishioners have initiated and participated in a project which is making thousands of face masks for local healthcare providers. 

On March 20, Melissa Vickers was motivated by a Facebook post about a hospital system in another state requesting its community to sew masks.  She saw the opportunity to do the same thing in our area and reached out to other local contacts to confirm the need.  Melissa got her answer within thirty minutes when she received a request for 150 masks from the birthing unit at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.  With that, Project Mask – WS was born!

Mask production began that very day as Melissa pulled in friends, including Heather Zifchak who, with her mother Elizabeth Morgan, owns Village Fabric Shop.  Heather didn’t hesitate to donate bolts of fabric and yards of elastic and to join arms with Melissa in recruiting a group of volunteers to cut, stitch, and deliver masks.  The ladies created a Facebook group, Project Mask – WS, and as word spread, their Facebook group quickly grew to over 1000 people. 

In one week, mask requests and support exploded as they organized over 400 volunteers in Winston-Salem and made more than 3,600 masks in fulfillment of requests for over 9,400 masks.  Donations for fabrics and supplies also began to pour in, and they raised in excess of $3,500 in donations. Their goal is to pump that money back into the community by supporting local fabric shops and sewing machine retailers. 

Each mask is carefully measured, cut, and stitched according to an approved pattern, and takes under an hour to complete.  Heather adds that each mask receives a special touch from several people.  “The masks are made with love and care by many hands.  Many of us have added prayers both silent and spoken as we prepare the masks for battle.”   After completion, each mask is washed and tumbled dry for sanitizing. Volunteers pick them up on a sewer’s front porch, and they are delivered to fill requests.

The rewards this group is receiving cannot be measured.  As Melissa says, “It is amazing to be a part of this whole endeavor.  Every day we are handing out hundreds of masks, and the feedback we are receiving is heartfelt and appreciative.”  

Heather notes she got involved “…because I couldn’t watch the news all day and night…I needed to use my energy for something good. This project has given me direction and a purpose during this scary time.  I’ve always been a helper, and this is the least I can do to protect local health care providers who are on the front lines fighting this virus.”

With lightning speed, these ladies have harnessed their collective energies to meet a growing need in our community’s response to the coronavirus.  Despite social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, they have organized an efficient operation and have even created an innovative method to stitch 135 masks at a time.  As Heather says, “Take that, Coronavirus!”

Other St. Paul’s parishioners involved are Megan Speziale, Jenny Ryan, Anne Butler, Lucy Paynter, Lisa Rowell, and Stewart Holmes’ mother.  Many others have made donations.  Please consider donating to this project by following directions on the Project Mask WS Facebook page or contacting Katie Sonnen-Lee at ksonnenlee@gmail.com.