Area volunteers, inspired by a local fabric and sewing shop owner, are putting hands to action to provide local hospitals, health care agencies and others with safety masks to help prevent the spread of illness, especially the COVID-19 virus.
Volunteers started offering help after Debbie Edenfield, owner of Deb-Bee’s Creations, posted a call for action on her Facebook page.
“I was sitting there with the TV on (watching COVID-19 news coverage) and I thought, ‘I have a warehouse full of fabric. It could be put to use,’” she said.
Deb-Bee’s Creations, a home-based shop, has been in business 20 years on Highway 80 West, just outside of Statesboro.
With a mind full of ideas, Edenfield called East Georgia Regional Medical Center to inquire about their needs and to find out what was required of the masks they used.
There was a definite need, said Erin Spillman, EGRMC director of marketing.
After speaking with hospital authorities, Edenfield posted on social media a pattern designed by Georgia Southern University professor Dr. Abby Martindale. Almost immediately, “people started to come in to sew,” she said. “They work outside, spaced 6 feet apart.”
Edenfield supplies the materials, but elastic is in short supply. Volunteers bought what they could find online, but “donations of fabric and elastic, 1/4 to 1/8 inch, are appreciated.”
People are sewing the masks at home as well, picking up materials and bringing back the finished products.
“We have had a good response,” she said.
Savannah businessman Jonathan Dedic is helping as well. The director of engineering at Coastal Canvas, Dedic cuts the fabric using the company’s machine. It can cut about 1,000 pieces in 15 minutes, according to reports.
The delight of recipients receiving the masks is amazing, Edenfield said.
Spillman said the effort is a great help.
“We cannot thank Debbie and the entire Statesboro community enough for their support during this time,” she said. “The outpouring of support from local businesses, churches, and individuals has been heartfelt by all of us at EGRMC, and we appreciate everything that is being done to help take care of our community.”
Other than a mask shortage, EGRMC is relatively well stocked with protective gear, she said.
“With the suspension of elective procedures, the hospital has been able to conserve much more personal protective equipment (PPE),” she said. “Fortunately, we have also started receiving more shipments, helping us restock those items. From a supply and PPE standpoint, we have an adequate supply and we are conserving as much as possible. Our main priority is to protect our staff and patients, and provide safe care at all times through the use of medical-grade PPE.”
It isn’t just the hospitals that need the masks. Persons with compromised immune systems or those who interact with the public can use them as well.
Edenfield said there is room for more volunteers, even those who are not experts.
“Anybody can make the masks. They are very easy.”
Several have already begun helping.
“We decided to start making gloves before I saw Ms. Debbie’s (social media) post,” said Seneca Brown, a mask-making volunteer.
Brown has already sent 10 masks to the hospital, one to Christian Social Ministries, with 10 more to follow, and three to AppleCare, she said.
Edenfield said creating a mask takes 15 to 20 minutes on an embroidery machine, or 5 to 7 minutes when it’s hand sewn. Masks made with an embroidery machine are “more intricate.”
None of the masks made by Edenfield and her volunteers are sold.
“We are blessed to do this for others,” Brown said. “We don’t need to make a profit when we are all supposed to be coming together.”
To volunteer or see more information, visit www.facebook.com/debbiescreations/.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.