The masks are being delivered to healthcare workers, grocery employees, and retirement homes, among others
VANCOUVER — To mask, or not to mask? That seems to be a question on many people’s minds these days.
While the Centers for Disease Control tries to formulate a recommendation for all of us, one local ministry is forging ahead with a plan to manufacture and distribute 20,000 masks.
Stuart Smith is an associate pastor at Crossroads Community Church, heading up their Love Now ministry, which is focused on charity work here in Clark County and the world at large.
“We have a number of people within our church and within our circles that are physicians, nurses, employees at rehab centers or retirement homes,” says Smith, “and they were all talking about how they didn’t have any kind of protection for, you know, when someone coughs, sneezes, or breathes.”
Smith says that sparked a conversation in their ministry group chat.
“And we just said, you know, we have a good sized church, we have a great mobilization, we have wonderful people who have great big hearts that are willing to pour out into a project,” he says, “and we said, ‘hey look, let’s pull the trigger on this.’”
“This” is #Lovenowmasks, a Facebook Group of more than 200 people working to deliver masks to healthcare workers, retirement homes, and assisted living facilities throughout Clark County.
“And it’s bigger than that,” says Smith. “We have another network that are kind of helpers and workers that are outside of that.”
They’re also working with other groups doing similar work, sharing information, designs, and details on where materials can be found.
“I saw someone on there that I have no idea who they are, or no relation to them at all, but they came across my feed and I connected them into our group because she needed a sewing machine,” Smith says. “And literally within an hour someone had said, ‘hey, I have a sewing machine. She can’t have it, but she could definitely borrow it for these efforts.”Video courtesy https://www.facebook.com/watch/CCCLoveNow/
As of Thursday, Smith said Love Now Masks had crafted just over 1,400 masks.
Initially, the group met at the church to distribute sewing kits, but soon decided that was too difficult to do safely. So they teamed up with Chuck’s Produce, which now hosts bins where people can pick up kits, then drop off the completed masks.
“People have been wildly excited about making masks, about dropping them off, taking a lot of photos,” says Smith. “And I think the general consensus is that people just want to be engaged, they want to be part of the solution.”
Smith added that he understands homemade masks are inadequate for many healthcare professionals, but there is growing consensus that masks may help to slow the spread of the virus. The CDC is expected to recommend that everyone wear a mask in public soon, making efforts like Love Now Masks all the more important.
“I worked in construction for many years, and the industry standard is to wear steel toed boots,” Smith says. “But if you don’t have steel toed boots, leather boots are better than barefoot.”
While efforts to connect the masks with hospitals at the administrative level have proven difficult, Smith says they have given some to nurses. Others have gone to nursing homes, retirement centers, and grocery stores for employees to wear.
“Our hearts just break for all the grocers, for the people who are serving in these industries,” Smith says. “These grocers are just unprotected themselves and so if we can help them just make that curve less of a spike, round that off a little bit.”
If you’re unable to sew, Smith says there’s still plenty you might be able to do to help. From financial donations to help with purchasing materials for the kits, to providing fabric or elastic, or just helping to connect them with others who might help.
“But outside of that, I think a lot of it, of course, is staying home,” Smith adds. “Being an active member of our community, staying home. For us in the faith-based communities to be praying for our community, praying for our world, our nations and that is, of course, equally important.”