Delivering masks

Jr. Miss Owensboro Natalie West, 9, delivers a stack of homemade masks to the Carmel Home on March 31 to help staff and residents prevent the spread of COVID-19. Natalie West and her mother, Cheri West, sewed the masks together at their home in Utica.

For Cheri West, it’s been 15 years since she had done any sewing.

But when her 9-year-old daughter Natalie suggested they do something to help in the COVID-19 fight, it was all the inspiration West needed to join the mask-making cause to aid the Carmel Home, a residential nursing facility at 2501 Old Hartford Road.

“A friend of mine posted on Facebook that the Carmel Home here in town was needing masks urgently,” West said. “And when I told Natalie about it, she said, ‘Well gosh, Mom, why don’t we make some masks?’ ”

Although West no longer owned a sewing machine, she decided last week to purchase one.

West said she made sure to protect herself because she also has a family member who’s more susceptible to the virus.

“I wore my mask and gloves and went to Walmart and bought a machine,” she said. “…I went in and straight out.”

And with a donation from Wight Speech and Language services for the fabric and elastic, West and her daughter rushed into production.

“We’ve made 65 total but 25 a day is our goal,” West said.

And on March 31, Natalie, wearing her own mask along with her 2019 Junior Miss Owensboro crown and sash, delivered stacks of handmade masks to the Carmel Home.

Sister Francis Teresa, head administrator of the Carmel Home, said she was grateful for the Wests’ donation along with the other members of the community who have kept them supplied with masks.

“These have been a blessing and we’re hoping that the other nursing homes are getting the same kind of response,” Sister Francis Teresa said.

The Carmel Home, which is on lockdown from everyone except for employees, currently has a staff of 130 caring for 113 residents.

Sister Francis Teresa said the facility does have disposable masks in stock but they’re trying to use those primarily for the residents unless they choose to wear one of the homemade masks.

“We’re OK (on masks) but we’re still accepting the homemade masks because after you wear them for a while they do get pretty soggy on your face,” she said. “So we’re having to change them out two or three times a day. We’re trying to make sure each of our staff members has two to four masks. They do take them and wash them.”

Since West and her daughter began making masks, their new sewing machine broke and a friend loaned them another to continue.

At first, West operated the sewing machine while Natalie cut the material and the elastic.

But in a short time, her daughter has also learned to use the sewing machine.

“After I get it all together, she’s sewing the straight lines for me and putting the last hem on it,” West said.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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