GLASGOW — Karen Bush saw a social media post Saturday from another community that talked about the need for face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s when the thought hit her.
Bush, who lives in the Tracy community of Barren County, attends First Christian Church along North Race Street in Glasgow, which has a knitting ministry that makes knit caps, mittens, scarves and other items that they donate to school resource centers in the Barren County area for students in need in the winter.
“I thought we have so many talented people in our church. I bet we have several ladies who can sew these masks,” she said.
Bush reached out to the church’s ministers, Jeff and Anne Bruce, who connected her with Kristen Bale, who was in charge of the church’s knitting ministry. Bush shared her idea to develop a mask ministry with Bale and the two began talking about various ways the mask ministry might play out. They reached out to other church members who are associated with the medical field to inquire about the local need.
“Surprisingly, the need was already great here. You know we really haven’t had any COVID-19 cases in Barren County yet. I think because the N95 masks are so in shortage nationwide and worldwide that it really is already impacting some of the local facilities, so several of them said ‘Yes, if you have a group of ladies interested in making them, we definitely could use them,’” Bush said.
Bale reached out to seamstresses who had previously been associated with the Cinderella’s Closet Ministry at First United Methodist Church along South Green Street and found about 20 people interested in helping with the mask ministry.
Some of the seamstresses were already making masks for health care facilities in neighboring counties and some were making masks for Hosparus. The guidelines for the masks that will be used by Hosparaus are different from other health care facilities, Bale said.
“It’s just kind of expanding,” she said. “Not everybody that I’ve been in contact with are just working for Glasgow and Barren County. There are sewing groups that are working for other entities within our community as well, which is just absolutely lovely.”
Bush and Bale also reached out to T.J. Samson Community Hospital and several area nursing homes and found out they were interested in receiving the masks.
“The thing is, of course, these masks won’t meet the CDC guidelines, so they are only to be used in an emergency situation when they run out,” Bush said, adding that the nursing home and other health care facilities have masks but they are on back order for the replenishing of their supplies.
Officials with one nursing home, Glenview Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center along Glenview Drive, initially said they would take 200 masks because they wanted one for each staff member. Bush told them she wasn’t sure the capacity to make 200 masks existed, so they then said they would take 50 masks.
The N95 masks that are being used by health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic are in high demand so there is a very limited supply, said Sherri Likens, compliance officer with Glenview Healthcare and Rehab Center.
“Most of the facilities are battling to get the equipment we need to take care of our residents. Not just for the coronavirus but for other illnesses that arise in health care. We are very grateful for anybody who wants to make masks and donate them to the facilities. We can use them in preventive daily care. If it comes, if we get an actual case in the facility, then we can use them to prolong the life of our N95 masks, so any health care facility would be very appreciative of anything anybody out in the public wanted to donate to help us,” Likens said.
Jason Gumm, administrator of Diversicare of Glasgow along Westwood Street, said his facility can also use the masks those involved with the church ministry make.
“First of all, we are just appreciative of people thinking about us. I can’t say how uplifting that is for our residents, the staff and anybody. We are looking for every way we can access supplies. We are going to utilize those masks to extend the supply that we have now,” he said. “It’s really great to see the community to come together like that and have people reaching out.”
Most of the other health care facilities are requesting between 50 to 60 masks. The goal of the mask ministry is to make between 300 to 500 masks.
‘Word has spread,” Bale said.
More people have expressed an interest in helping to make the masks. Some don’t sew, but still want to help in some way so they are cutting out the masks and preparing them for sewing, as well as cutting the elastic needed to secure them to people’s faces to the proper length.
“We are using our own patterns from YouTube and following the guidelines of using 100 percent cotton with hopefully a pocket in it so it can put some sort of filter in that face mask pocket,” Bale said.
Since Saturday, a Facebook page for the mask ministry has been created by Jan Hoover of Glasgow who attends River Lake Church along North Jackson Highway. The title of the Facebook page is Masks Matter.
“That’s really good to get the word out too,” Bale said. “People across the nation are doing this. We all know the need.”
Bale advises those wanting to join the effort to use a mask pattern that is the easiest for them to do and to make sure they are using 100 percent cotton, prewashed fabric.
“What has been the interesting hiccup in it is most of these masks require one-fourth inch elastic and that’s been very hard to find. I went to JoAnn’s on Sunday and they were pretty well bought up,” Bale said.
JoAnn’s in the Barren River Plaza shopping center is now closed per the governor’s request from earlier in the week due to it not being a life-supporting business.
One person has ordered elastic online and is waiting its arrival so it can be used to make more masks.
Anyone who is interested in joining the effort is welcome to do so. Information about the mask ministry is available on the church’s website at www.fccglasgowky.org, as well as its Facebook page, and on the mask ministry’s Facebook page.
For those who don’t wish to sew a mask but would rather to contribute in some other way, monetary donations are being accepted and can be made through the mobile app Givelify, but need to be designated for First Christian Church Mask Ministry, Bush said.
There is also a donation box placed at the church where material and other items can be placed, she said.
“One thing we really want to promote as far as our church we really promote and believe it’s not just about the ministers doing the ministry, but it’s about the people in the congregation doing the ministry too,” she said. “We’re all in this together as a community and as a church we’re trying to support each other through this time of need.”