SaddleBrooke residents team up to make face masks for health-care workers
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SaddleBrooke residents team up to make face masks for health-care workers

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

Elaine and Rick Beeble model the colorful masks they are making for health-care workers in the Tucson area.

SaddleBrooke residents Rick and Elaine Beeble were troubled to learn of a severe shortage of protective masks for medical caregivers in today’s troubling times. As they were talking about this problem, they quickly came up with an idea to address that need, if only in a small way.

Elaine, who loves to sew, did an internet search on how to make medical masks at home and watched several YouTube videos on the subject. Being a former nurse, she settled on a design recommended by Deaconess Hospital in the state of Washington.

Although Rick and Elaine knew these homemade masks would primarily be worn under N95 medical masks, they also learned that some medical caregivers, like home-care nurses, can’t get N95 or other protective masks, so homemade ones might be their only option.

That sent Rick and Elaine back to the internet, where they learned that clipping a coffee filter on back of these homemade masks improved their protective value. Even better, they said, the coffee filter could be easily changed out whenever needed, extending the life of the homemade cloth medical mask, so coffee filters were added to their list of needed materials.

Given all this information, the Beebles decided to start making these medical masks in their home.

Their first challenge was assembling all the materials needed to make the masks. Elaine started by ordering 288 yards of elastic on Amazon.

As they were thinking about where to get the needed fabric, they remembered their SaddleBrooke square dance club had an inventory of very colorful material that was once used to decorate club shirts and dresses.

They made a quick call to the presidents of the SaddleBrooke Squares and asked if the club would be willing to donate its fabric for this project and, in the blink of an eye, there were 12 bolts of fabric sitting on Elaine’s sewing table.

She calculated she could make 140 masks out of one bolt of fabric and said to herself, “140 times 12 equals 1,680. I think Rick and I are going to need some help with this project.” Her first step was to send an e-mail to her fellow SaddleBrooke square dancers asking who had a sewing machine and was willing to help on this project. Before she knew it, she had four ladies who had sewing machines and wanted to help and others who offered to cut material, supply coffee filters and help in any way needed.

Making a medical mask on a home sewing machine is a very time-consuming task and, wanting to get these masks in the hands of the people who needed them ASAP, Rick put a post on the SaddleBrooke Nextdoor Neighbor site asking who had a sewing machine and was willing to help sew these medical masks. Before they knew it, 16 more ladies were stitching away on their machines.

When asked how they were going to distribute these masks, the Beebles said they will go to hospitals, home health care nurses, patients who have to go to hospitals for radiation and chemo, and nursing homes.

Rick and Elaine have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have volunteered to help. Elaine said, “We go to bed very tired but also rejuvenated knowing that today we and many others have loved one another.”

As you read this article, Rick and Elaine and their helpers are busy cutting their materials to size, as they know they will soon be getting a call from someone saying “I’m bringing 10 finished masks to your home, so please have 10 more precut masks ready for me to take with me.”

Richard and Donna Martin are presidents of the SaddleBrooke Squares square dancing club.

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