Volunteer group and business team up to aid healthcare workers

Posted at 12:39 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 13:49:38-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Just three pieces of materials: elastic, a spool of thread and a grocery bag. It's a simple, yet brilliant idea that will help protect those working so diligently to help others.

"This is the N95 mask, and this is the mask that all the volunteers made," said Judy Fletcher of Celtic Quilter. "It will go over the the mask, and it will prolong its use for our doctors and medical staff."

But not wanting to just make mask covers that couldn't be used, they discussed the idea with health professionals.

"The doctor can wear these five times, with this worn over it," said volunteer coordinator Holly-Murphy-Barstow. "We met with Methodist, and they gave us some feedback. Trish designed the pattern and it went from there."

More than 500 people volunteered to sew the mask covers.

"These are very simple...most home sewers can easilty accomplish this," Murphy-Barstow said. "The real challenge has been elastic bands, but we have managed to beg, borrowed and steal elastic from all over the U.S. to get this done."

They made 10,000 mask covers. But before they can be handed out, they have to be cleaned.

"We immediately thought this is our opportunity to help fight the virus and help our healthcare professionals stay safe," said Casey Walker of Max I. Walker Cleaners. "This is something we know how to do, we've been doing it for 103 years in the community. It was a no-brainer for us to pick up the phone and try to help."

But with this virus being so deadly, just cleaning them wasn't good enough.

"The process for sanitizing from the CDC is a time and temperature mixture...between sanitizing soap and a temperature of your wash" Walker explained. "We specifically built a program for these masks that reaches 160 degrees. When you're washing at 160 degrees, you are sanitizing completely; we wanted to go above and beyond the 160 degree temperature to make sure they were sanitized."

The masks will be given to Methodist Hospital next week.

This group is not stopping there. They have already started on a round two of mask covers and have inspired other groups across the country to do the same.