April 4, 2020

Update: as of April 7th, more than 4,100 mask have been made.

By Sandy Foster of the Tribune

We’ve all heard the sobering news amid the COVID-19 pandemic…medical personnel everywhere are experiencing a shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment. This equipment, made up of face shield, mask, gloves, goggles and protective outerwear, is all that stands between a healthy healthcare worker and one who is sick. At home. In bed.

Pam Jenkins Hatcher of Integrity Group Real Estate found out about the shortage virtually straight from the horse’s mouth. “I have several family members in the healthcare field. They were all saying the same thing. There wasn’t enough protective equipment for the workers. Some facilities were rationing masks, telling employees that all they had left were Level 1 masks and to use those on an as needed basis.”

When Pam heard this, the emergency preparedness training she had obtained while working in corporate America kicked in. “Oh my gosh, I thought. There is a shortage of masks! I know how to mobilize and organize people to make masks and get them distributed to hospitals and clinics!”

That was Thursday, March 19th. On Friday she posted a mask pattern to her Facebook and neighborhood pages, telling people about the shortage and asking if anyone could sew. “Over that weekend, the post went viral and I had people from all over the Metro area, St. Joseph, Warrensburg and even the Ozarks committed to helping sew masks.”

Ten days later, the Mask Brigade as they are called, had sewed up and delivered 2,000 masks to area hospitals, first responders, skilled nursing facilities and palliative care programs around the Metro.

“We use two layers of cotton material with a slit in the top. We place a coffee filter in between the layers so that it can be taken out and thrown away and the mask can be washed and reused. There is a shortage of everything right now, but we continue getting requests for masks from healthcare professionals every day. We need round elastic, ¼ inch or 3/8 inch and cotton fabric. We have been repurposing ponytail holders and using them in making the masks. Sheets and pillowcases work well for the fabric.” Donations of supplies to the PAMdemic Mask Brigade are welcome.

“The past couple of weeks have really been a blur,” Pam said. “There is a lot that goes in to orchestrating so many people from differing parts of the area. But if every single household would open their sewing kit or craft box, dig out thread, elastic and cotton material (even sheets) there would be enough,” she said.

Donations of cotton fabric, round elastic, ¼ inch and 3/8 inch, as well as coffee filters are welcome at Integrity Group Real Estate in Lee’s Summit. They have a blue container located out front for donations. The address is 463 SW Ward Road, across from HyVee, behind Papa Murphy’s.

PAMdemic Mask Brigade is asking that the fabric be recently washed.