Wartime seamstress: Masks, masks and more masks

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Healthcare workers who have been on the front lines and in the spotlight since the onset of COVID-19 have been the focal point of protective gear because of the deficit in availability for things like masks, gloves and other protective gear, also knowns as PPE (personal protective equipment). Photo credit: Emily Tessmer

Emily Tessmer, Editor

In these times, helplessness can take root, and fear can become an unwelcome guest who never leaves.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Tahoe-Truckee area, a region that has been designated a corona “hot spot,” many are searching for relief from anxiety and isolation.

Healthcare workers who have been on the front lines and in the spotlight since the onset of COVID-19 have been the focal point of protective gear because of the deficit in availability for things like masks, gloves and other protective gear, also knowns as PPE (personal protective equipment).

After visiting Safeway recently, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that none of the employees were wearing masks, and few were wearing gloves.

How can this be?

These are workers who are on the front lines and had little or no protection from a virus that stays alive, suspended in the air for up to three hours after being expelled by someone who is infected.

I had to do something because this is my local community store.

Later that evening, after posting a thread on Facebook about potential interest in a community mask-making project, I had upwards of $200 donated on Venmo and attracted friends who wanted to donate money, cut fabric and sew.

We are in this together and I love my tribe.

The following day I called in an order to Mill End Fabric in Reno, and they mailed out the supplies for approximately 120 masks.

The package arrived and I made kits out of the contents and distributed it to seven different volunteers.

Nancy Ryan, a local dog trainer and pet expert answered the call to be a seamstress.

“I feel grateful that I am able to sew and help others during these times,” Ryan said. “I am finding gratitude in making these masks.”

With the intention to outfit Safeway, and Save-Mart in the Tahoe and Truckee areas, each of the four total stores, are slated to receive 30 masks.

To date, each store has received between 10-15 masks and volunteers are working on the second round of deliveries.

Carmen Carr, a philanthropist and real estate agent, and Alaina Reichwald, the school counselor at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School in Truckee, also answered the mask-making call and teamed up to cut and sew masks.

“These times can feel so lonely and isolating,” Reichwald said. “Making masks lets our local grocers know how grateful we are for their willingness to keep the shelves stocked and so we can all remain comfortable. It’s the least we can do to help them feel safe.”

There are more than 40 masks that are awaiting completion, and delivery, and the Tahoe Truckee mask project continues to gain momentum.

The next target is the North Tahoe Fire Protection District.

Maybe the secret to emotionally surviving this unprecedented time is to give to our communities’ needs and tune into our local demographic.

“In giving lies a deep sense of gain,” Carr said.

Carmen Carr, Alaina Reichwald, and Nancy Ryan, Shelley Barbero, Sandra James, Elisa Tauber, and Mirabai Joni Temple have also donated their time and energy to make masks for our local frontline workers.