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‘Mask Crusaders’ making an impact as far away as Massachusetts

Creative Hearts sewing ministry sends their love

These masks sent to Massachusetts nurse Lori Cooke were made by members of Creative Hearts, a sewing ministry at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. Courtesy photo

As Creative Hearts sewing ministry members continue to make masks for Highland Lakes medical workers and others on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, their efforts are affecting people as far away as New England.

Intravenous nurse Lori Cooke has worked at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Massachusetts, for almost six years. She heard about the First Baptist Church of Marble Falls needleworkers making handmade masks via a article and reached out to the group.

Creative Hearts member Mojo Cornelius thought Cooke would be able to get masks from New England needleworkers more quickly, but the nurse, who regularly works 12½-hour shifts, told Cornelius she really wanted one from the Marble Falls ministry because “you pray over them.”

On March 30, after a challenging day at the hospital, Cooke returned home and found a package from the Highland Lakes containing two masks from Creative Hearts.

“I cried. They are so beautiful, so professionally sewn. I felt the love that went into these,” she said. “I am honored and so very grateful for the time, talent, and treasure that went into the creation of these. I feel as though angels will be protecting me.” 

Highland Lakes sewers have ramped up mask-making efforts since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending everyone wear a cloth mask if they leave their home to run essential errands.

In one week, volunteers with Creative Hearts, the Highland Lakes Quilt Guild, and Save the World Brewing Company made at least 700 masks.

While an impressive number, the “Mask Crusaders” or “Mask Bandits,” as they call themselves, still have a long list of requests and are committed to ensuring everyone who wants a mask receives one.

Save the World Brewing Company bottling hand sanitizer
Save the World Brewing Company co-owner Dave Rathkamp fills beer bottles with hand sanitizer. The brewery began making and bottling hand sanitizer for medical facilities, first responders, and nonprofit organizations. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Quynh Rathkamp, co-owner of Save the World Brewing Company in Marble Falls, and seven other needleworkers have sent masks to New Rochelle, New York, considered the COVID-19 epicenter in that state, and New Orleans’ Tulane Medical Center, where she and husband Dave, both former doctors, did their residency.

Save the World is accepting handmade masks in exchange for beer. For every handmade mask brought to the brewery, the giver gets a 12-ounce bottle of beer. The tasting room is open noon-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday for curbside and window orders. Donors can bring their handmade masks and also receive hand sanitizer. Contact the brewery in advance at 830-637-7654 or for more information.

In all, Save the World has made or received more than 250 masks to send out of the state.

The Rathkamps, as of April 6, also have made 43 gallons of hand sanitizer, enough to fill 432 bottles of beer or 18 cases of 24 bottles.

The spray sanitizer is 62 percent alcohol with essential oils to make it safe yet effective.

Medical personnel, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who can’t get hand sanitizer but need it can go to the brewery at 1510 Resource Parkway in Marble Falls. Since the Rathkamps aren’t selling the hand sanitizer, they ask that people donate to their local food pantries in exchange.

The Creative Hearts ministry stitchers have sent out more than 1,000 masks and still have another 500 requests, according to Cornelius.

“A few went to Austin, Round Rock, and the San Antonio (area),” she said. “The largest number is in the Highland Lakes area.”

A big need, Cornelius noted, is elastic. She had received 10 spools of 100 yards each and was awaiting another elastic arrival over the weekend.

The needleworkers are falling into a rhythm, working more quickly as they become accustomed to the mask pattern.

Cornelius noted that 25 masks went to the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, 250 to EMS systems, and many to local food pantries and those working in grocery stores and pharmacies.

And, of course, the two sent to Lori Cooke in Massachusetts.

Cooke said the masks will keep her spirits up as she works to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“For every hardship we face as nurses, something beautiful presents itself each day,” she said. “I am keeping a gratitude journal, and the connection made with (Creative Hearts) was not by chance. There is a higher power at work here, and, for that, I am grateful to be a part of this.” 

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the coronavirus resources webpage.