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Rockwood Staff, Students Participate in Mammoth Mask-Making Effort

Blue and white striped fabric is visible in the bottom of a white plastic bag.

​The ways in which Rockwood community members are participating in the production of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) continue to multiply. 

Rockwood middle school Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) teachers are participating in a mask-making effort along with others inside the school district and beyond. ​​​

Two woman wearing protective masks load white plastic bags into the back of a van."I teach sewing for sixth, seventh and eighth grade," said Debbie Odlum, a LaSalle Springs FACS teacher.  "Making masks is pretty simple.  You take two six-by-nine-inch pieces of fabric and seven-inch pieces of elastic.  Each one takes about 15 minutes." ​

But what a difference those pieces of cloth can make.  On April 16, Odlum got a new supply of fabric for mask making from Rockwood Content Facilitator Dr. Paige Carlson.  Carlson also delivered donated fabric to Lafayette High Assistant Principal Dr. Kirti Mehrotra, who is part of another group making protective masks. ​

A lady wearing a protective mask uses a sewing machine to assemble another mask."The group Dr. Mehrotra is part of has made 1,000 masks," said Carlson.  "Some of the fabric they paid for, so now we can replenish their stock with donated fabric." 

Two ladies, one waring a protective mask, load white plastic bags into the back of a van.Carlson got the fabric from Charity Sharity, an organization run out of the basement of Crestwood resident Carole Splater.  Splater said Charity Sharity was started by a group of friends who are fabric lover​​s. 

"My husband estimates anywhere from 15 to 20 tons of fabric comes in and out of our house each year," she said.  "Every week we send 40 to 70 trash bags of fabric out to people doing good work." 

Splater said her organization donates fabric to people manufacturing products for the military, hospitals, shelters, FACS classes and drama departments.  COVID-19 PPE is a new addition to the list. 

"As a matter of fact, all of our other work has been suspended," said Splater.  "We're not answering any other requests right now, and we've turned it all over to the mask project.  We're doing a few isolation gowns as well.  Again, we don't make any of it – we just get material out to people who do." 

Mehrotra is part of a group of about 25 volunteers. 

"Everybody has full-time jobs," said Mehrotra.  "It's been amazing.  They're working from home, but in the evenings a lot of them are sewing." 

Mehrotra said that group has recently sewn protective masks for social workers, food service employees, multiple nursing homes and a police department. 

"We produce probably 100 to 150 masks per week," she said.  "The numbers are not that large, but as we get demand, we try to fill it.  The masks are all gone.  We don't maintain any stockpile." 

A woman wearing a protective mask helps another woman, in front of her, put one on and tie it from behind.Marquette junior Janvi Huria and her mother, Kady, are part of the effort, as well. ​​Two woman wearing protective masks pose for a photo holding a sign that reads, "#stayhome, #staaysafe, #staypositve."

"My mom and I are kind of in the middle of all this," said Huria.  "We collect fabric from anyone we know and deliver it to people who know how to sew." ​

Back in the parking lot of LaSalle Springs, Odlum focuses on the practicality of the mask-making effort. 

"People need masks, and we hope to help people," she said.  "We may be required to wear masks in public." 

But Odlum is able to find an educational angle as well. 

"Students will see what a benefit there is to sewing," said Odlum. ​​​