They call themselves the “Mask Crusaders.”
It’s a fitting name for a group putting their sewing skills to work for others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the disease spreads, medical facilities across the country are facing shortages of N-95 masks, which filter 95 percent of airborne particles. That scarcity is forcing doctors and nurses to reuse masks and ask for more protective gear.
Those pleas reached Creative Hearts, a sewing group at First Baptist Church in Marble Falls.
“It’s cute and it’s fun, but it’s more than that,” Creative Hearts co-leader Mojo Cornelius said of the nickname. “I’ve been cutting and putting kits together for my people.”
The kits contain the supplies to sew face masks.
Cornelius distributes the kits to 15 needleworkers, who then work from their own homes to create the masks. She hopes the number of sewers grows.
Highland Lakes Quilt Guild president Sue Grove sent an email to members to let them know of the need for more masks. Those members have been making some, too, she said.
Creative Hearts co-leader Anna Stallcup said sewing is a skill that’s a necessity right now. The co-leaders are organizing the administrative part: figuring out who has what materials and zeroing in on what is missing in order to make the masks.
The seamstresses are using material they already have to sew the masks. Cornelius said the big need right now is more elastic, which is on back order. Those who have a quarter-inch elastic or smaller who want to donate it are asked to call First Baptist Church of Marble Falls at 830-693-4381.
Group member Melinda Savage found a YouTube video that shows how to make the masks.
The beauty of their handmade masks, aside from the sometimes vibrant material, is they can be worn over N-95 masks.
Cornelius noted the handmade masks are 62-97 percent effective in catching airborne particles. Wearers can run the masks through a clothes washer after shifts and reuse them.
“They still want backups,” said Savage of those who use and need protective masks. She has already made 40 since March 20.
Savage, who beat pancreatic cancer 2½ years ago, was self-isolating when her daughter, Sarah, texted her the plea for masks she discovered on social media. Savage had wanted to do something to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she must be careful because of her own compromised immune system.
Sewing masks from her home was something she could do.
She spoke with Cornelius about the need. Soon the requests came pouring in from across Burnet County: food pantries, EMS, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and hospitals. Individual appeals from those with compromised immune systems also came in as did requests from as far away as Waco and San Antonio.
“I wish I were 10 people,” Savage said. “I was so excited to be able to do this.”
Once she completes her masks, Savage puts them in a box on her porch and friends take the box to deliver the masks to the intended group.
Cornelius said the requests now are more than 500, and the Mask Crusaders are expecting the list to grow as word spreads about their mission. Their top priority is helping their neighbors in Burnet and Llano counties first and then expanding outside of the area.
“We obviously want to protect them as much as possible,” Cornelius said. “We want to love locally first and get everyone covered as much as we can. We’re open to whatever the Lord wants us to do.”
The three don’t view themselves as heroic. And they’re definitely not making the masks for recognition or praise. Cornelius said the group has adopted the mantra found in 1 Peter 4:10 that empowers people to share their talents with others.
“There is an extension of loving on them,” she said. “I’m not a nurse or doctor. We’re all using our skills and talents to love on people.”
What they hope is to be a shining light for their children and grandchildren, so those generations will see what can be accomplished when people work together to take care of each other.
Stallcup and her husband, Bubba, have three children: 7-year-old Caleb, 5-year-old Naomi, and 4-year-old Levi. While the youngsters might not understand what COVID-19 is, their mother emphasizes they should see the needs of others and do what they can to help.
“One of the things we talk about is using the skills and gifts they have,” Stallcup said. “Any skill at some point is going to be invaluable.”
“I tell my kids, ‘You don’t know what God is preparing you for,’” she said. “You’ll have strength for certain things; you just don’t know it yet. Prayers – you’ll need those some day. That’s the rehearsal for when the time comes.”
The seamstresses realize the chances they’ll meet the people who receive the masks are slim; still, they pray over them and hope the recipients will continue to answer their callings.
“I hope they’re safe,” Stallcup said.
Anyone wanting to make masks can call First Baptist Church at 830-693-4381 for more information.