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Tormenta players making masks for hospitals
Tormenta FC
Tormenta FC goalkeeper Parker Siegfried works on a sewing machine as he contributes to Tormenta FC's effort to provide hospitals with masks that will be used by medical personel in Georgia.

Since debuting its first team in the summer of 2016, South Georgia Tormenta FC has embraced a strong sense of community. Just as the soccer club depends on local fans to fill the stands and cheer on the team throughout each season, Tormenta wants Statesboro to know that its players - whether here permanently with the professional team or just stopping by for a summer with the League Two squad - are all in for supporting local people and businesses.

It would be easy for Tormenta players to be a bit down nowadays. The professional League One team was set to kick off its season a week ago, but everything is currently on hold as soccer - along with every other sport - stays on the sidelines amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Without the ability to play or train as a team, there are a lot of unforeseen free hours on the calendar each day, but a handful of Tormenta players are using their misfortune to contribute where help is badly needed at the moment.

St. Matthew’s Catholic Church has a long standing sewing circle group. In the past, the group has worked with charitable organizations to craft and donate homemade items to those in need around the globe. A common need at the moment comes from all around the United States as medical professionals are in need of masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The St. Matthew’s sewing circle went into action and has now found some new hands to contribute to the cause.

Part owner and designated “Executive Team Mom” of Tormenta, Netra Van Tassell has participated in the sewing group before and sent out the call for interested soccer players to join in.

“We’ve always been mission and community driven,” Van Tassell said of Tormenta. “We got requests from Emory and from St. Joseph’s in Savannah for masks that personnel working with non-COVID patients could use to conserve other masks for those who needed them most. I sent out a text and immediately heard back from several guys who wanted to help.”

Surprisingly enough, sewing wasn’t a skill that ran deep in a group of twentysomething athletes. But Parker Siegfried, Curtis Thorn and Sergio Gonzalez quickly stepped up.

“I’ll be honest,” Siegfried said. “The first two days, I had to throw out just about everything and I learned a lot more about how to break a sewing machine than how to fix one. But it’s been coming along. It’s clear how much this club supports us and the community, so I want to step up and do my part.”

It figures that competitive athletes might be critical of their abilities when trying to learn a new skill, but Van Tassell gives the trio all great grades. The fact that hospitals are accepting their contributions by the dozens says even more.

Since the masks are used in a medical setting, the standards are demanding and exact. The hospitals sent the sewing group patterns for a mask that includes space for a filter to be inserted. After use, both the mask and the filter can be sanitized for reuse.

“The guys took right to it,” Van Tassell said. “I know they’re wanting to practice and play, but they’ve taken that energy and spirit and put it to great use.

“They keep getting better and faster. And they have some style. I thought at first that the guys would pick plain, dark colors, but now I see them handing me masks that have all of these bright and crazy patterns. I think it has really opened up their creative side.”

Additional hospitals have already reached out to the group to inquire about obtaining masks. And as much as the players will love it when they get back to soccer, they’re all proud to be using their unexpected free time in a generous and helpful way.