With Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledging in recent days B.C.’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a concern and the province would start using community-made masks, the local unit leader for a Kitimat mask-making group is putting the call out for support.
Annie Hall said she first heard about the local mask-making groups back in mid-March when global awareness of the pandemic began to increase. Hall said she first got involved through thinking about brushing up on her sewing skills and helping her loved ones out. “I thought, well, maybe I’ll just sew my family a few masks even though I don’t really leave the house or anything, but I thought it’d be fun to do,” she said.
However after her mother posted a photo of her creations to facebook Hall said the post blew up among her group of local Kitimat friends. Her mother would also end up posting the photo to the “Mask makers for Northern BC Covid crisis” Facebook group, where a number of Hall’s friends asked her if she could be the group’s unit leader for the District.
Admittedly still a novice sewer, Hall said she decided to step up as there was no one else who had volunteered and she wanted to do her part to help those most vulnerable in the area who might not have access to masks.
At the time she started Hall said Kitimat General Hospital (KGH) was not accepting masks, versus other hospitals in the area which were taking masks but explaining to people that they would be stockpiled and not used initially (the Province has since said it has plans to roll out approved community-made masks, something Hall said she hopes will increase demand for sewers).
She said while she started off extremely gung-ho about making the masks, devoting full days to prep work and sewing at the beginning of the pandemic. However as the days progressed Hall said she had to balance this out with things like devoting time to homeschooling her daughter.
To that point, she said by far her biggest issue right now (besides a sewing machine which is currently on the mend at a local repair shop) is not having enough volunteers to supply what she is hoping is an increased demand from a KGH which will now be accepting community-made masks.
“It’s a bit difficult, everybody that wants masks knows the I’m the unit leader so they just come to me, so now I have this load of masks that I need to make,” said Hall.
She added that she does have a few people helping her out on a smaller scale but that what she really needs right now are full-time volunteers who can devote a significant amount of time to making masks for the area. She added that she has a surplus of fabric for people who are interested in helping out locally.
Now that the word is out, Hall said she is routinely approached by people looking to buy masks from her, but she said she isn’t selling. “I don’t want to be paid, I just want to make masks for the community and the vulnerable and the elderly, so I don’t want to turn people away,” she said.
Unfortunately, due to her own machine being temporarily out of commission and a lack of volunteers Hall said she has amassed a list of people looking for help. “I’m kind of backlogged,” she said. “Everyone likes my post but it’s hard to find volunteers.”
Her message for anyone who wants to help is simple: reach out to her on Facebook or through the mask-making group. “I know there are people out there that are sewing and if they could just communicate with me [and] then we can join forces.”
In terms of next steps and communicating with the hospital Hall, who is housebound, said she is not looking to add a lot more to her plate and would be open to another local volunteer facilitating things like a regular drop off of masks once she has a bit of a better idea of how many volunteers they have and what their capacity is in the coming weeks.
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