Star Waddell-Stahl stood outside Dollar Tree Monday morning, waiting for the store to open so she could buy supplies to sew surgical masks for Owensboro Health front-line employees.
Like many items nowadays — for example, toilet paper and hand sanitizer — elastic suddenly is as rare as hen’s teeth.
No elastic? No problem, Waddell-Stahl said.
She came up with one heck of a solution. She bought 100 headbands at Dollar Tree Monday. They contain the elastic she needs for sewing surgical masks.
Just days ago, OH put out a call for local seamstresses to fire up their sewing machines and make fabric face masks, which can be washed and reused. The health system could experience shortages during the upcoming fight with the coronavirus, OH officials reported. In recent weeks, face masks have been in short supply worldwide.
OH posted a message on Facebook, asking for help. As of Monday afternoon, the message had been shared more than 1,300 times.
Waddell-Stahl, a hairstylist and craft seamstress, started sewing Saturday. As of Monday, she had made 30 face masks, including some with paw-print fabric for her veterinarian’s office.
She posted a picture of the first mask she made on the OWLS — Owensboro Women Living Socially — Facebook page. Up to 50 women in that group replied that they wanted to help, too.
“There are a lot of people in this town who are coming out to fulfill this need,” Waddell-Stahl said.
After hair salons shut down Wednesday, she planned to paint a bathroom at home. She postponed that job to sew for OH.
“It’s not about what I need,” Waddell-Stahl said. “It’s about what the people on the front lines need.”
OH has posted links to sewing instructions and materials that should be used. For more information, look at OH’s Facebook page.
As of Monday, the health system had a six-month supply of surgical masks on hand, so the need is not critical today; however, OH does not expect to receive its April shipment of masks, said Brian Hamby, OH director of communications.
During the peak of flu season, OH uses about 25,000 face masks per month. If the coronavirus kicks into high gear in coming months, the health system’s supply could dwindle fast. That’s what it’s preparing for.
Hamby said OH officials first reached out to the Daviess County Homemakers for help. And many members of the Owensboro Area Quilters Guild agreed to make face masks for the health system.
Seamstresses already have dropped off several hundred surgical masks.
“We are so appreciative of our community and the support it has given,” he said. “It has really been a blessing to our team members.”
All the locally made face masks will be used, Hamby said.
Drop-off locations are OH Regional Hospital and Healthpark. Before going to either facility, contact Debbie Zuerner-Johnson at Debbie.email@example.com for important drop-off details.
Clay Horton, Green River District Health Department public health director, said his agency has enough face masks for its operations. However, compared to a hospital or other providers, the health department’s work does not require as much direct patient contact, so its needs for face masks are smaller.
Jackie Pyland-Tipmore works at Old National Bank. She brought her portable sewing machine to work Monday so she could stitch surgical masks for OH during breaks and her lunch hour. She planned to schlep the machine home at the end of the day so she could make more in the evening.
Pyland-Tipmore, who used to sew all her outfits, couldn’t find elastic either. She ordered some Friday night, but the wait is expected to be long.
In the meantime, she posted a note on Facebook that she needed elastic for OH masks.
“I’ve had an abundance of people who brought elastic and material and put it on my porch,” Pyland-Tipmore said. “It blessed me.”
Besides OH, she’s sewing surgical masks for friends who work at a local nursing home. She also received calls from other health care workers who asked her to make masks for them.
“I’m going to try to make 20 a week if I can,” Pyland-Tipmore said.
Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, firstname.lastname@example.org