With protective masks for medical staff in short supply, Stillwater Medical Center is getting some help from volunteer seamstresses who are sewing homemade cloth masks.

The masks, made from a pattern found online and shared with volunteers by SMC, are for hospital visitors and staff members who don’t work in patient care areas.

That way, surgical and N95 particulate respirator masks can be reserved for patients who are ill and the medical staff caring for them.

One of the groups producing the four-layer cloth masks, which would look like a surgical masks if they weren't made from patterned fabric, is the Joy Bag Ladies from University Heights Baptist Church. They’re a team of seamstresses who make Joy Bags, colorful totes that missionaries distribute in developing countries to make people’s lives easier.

The group numbers about 15 and makes 1,600 bags a year. But for now, they’ve turned their attention to cranking out masks for SMC.

The project is a perfect fit for the Joy Bag Ladies, who already had a workshop with multiple sewing machines and stacks of colorful fabric on hand, members Jone Hawkins and Janis Burger said.

They just set up an assembly line and started production, Rosalee Taylor said. Volunteers who don’t sew pinned, ironed and trimmed threads.

The Joy Bag Ladies expect to make at least 130 masks for the hospital before they’re done.

More volunteers are making masks from home, they said.

Thursday, SMC Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Eckels put out a call on Facebook with a link to the pattern and the post took off, generating a reaction that extended far beyond Stillwater.

Hawkins said Eckels told her she had received calls from across the country.

Although Eckels wasn’t available Friday afternoon, a recording on her voicemail thanked people for their outpouring of concern and urged anyone calling from another area to contact their local hospitals to see if they need masks.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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