The cotton masks seamstresses are making may not be effective enough for doctors and nurses, but they serve a purpose.
Which is why the Orphan Grain Train in Norfolk is providing fabric and a pattern to people interested in making them. The organization also will distribute the finished masks to people who can use them to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, which can be spread by coughs and sneezes.
The masks, which are lined, are “50% better than nothing and 43% less effective than the N95 commercial masks,” said the Rev. Ray Wilke, president of the Orphan Grain Train.
Wilke’s wife, Judy, is spearheading the project.
She researched patterns and found one that is fairly easy to make. The only problem, she said, is finding the elastic used to secure the masks over the ears. It, like toilet paper, is in short supply because so many people are sewing masks, she said.
Consequently, she is making ties for the masks from strips of fabric. But ribbon or bias tape can be used, she said.
A fabric with a tight-weave, such as that used to make quilts, is the best, she said. The masks may be reused after being sterilized in boiling water for five minutes.
While the masks aren’t appropriate for use by people in the medical field, they can be used by people who “serve in public places,” the Rev. Wilke said.
For instance, Orphan Grain Train volunteers could use them when packing boxes.
The masks “protect others from sneezes and coughs,” he said.
The Orphan Grain Train plans to distribute the pattern to its 23 branches throughout the country, he said.
In addition to making masks, the Orphan Grain Train is also developing a process to make sanitary wipes out of ethanol, Rev. Wilke said.
“We want to make sure we’re following federal guidelines,” he said.
Plus, the organization is distributing free lunches to people 19 years of age and older. The meals, which include a sandwich, fruit, chips and other items, are distributed outside the Orphan Grain Train’s office at 601 W. Phillip Ave., Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until the food is gone.
During the first week, around 1,400 meals were distributed.
The Rev. Wilke said they coordinated their efforts with the Norfolk Public Schools, which is providing meals for students. But there are adults who are in need, too, he said.
“A lot of people live paycheck to paycheck,” he said.
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Want to learn more?
The pattern can be downloaded at https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern. For more information call the Orphan Grain Train at 402-371-7393. The Orphan Grain Train office is operating at reduced hours, so if calls are not answered, try the next day.