The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the demand for N95 Surgical Masks is unprecedented.

A top priority is to direct supplies of medical-grade masks to persons working in health care, first responders, and other persons with jobs that bring them into close contact with untested persons.

Leaders on this front are emerging around Kent County.  Now they are calling volunteers to join in the Kent Face Mask Challenge.

It all started two weeks ago while Cheryl Hoopes was playing her ukulele on her Chestertown porch. Hoopes spotted a picture on her phone that her niece, a registered nurse, had posted on her Facebook page a story of a man wearing a homemade face mask. Since then Hoopes has been on a mission to make and distribute face masks to the front lines of this crisis.

While waiting for a medically approved pattern, these homemade masks are going to those unprotected good samaritans who risk exposure in their volunteer efforts, like bringing food or other relief to the needy, ill or elderly.

“These masks offer no protection from the COVID-19 virus.  But they can be put over the standard issue to extend their life. They are better than nothing– or using your sleeve to protect yourself,”  Hoopes recalled a conversation she had with a nurse about the effort.

Sumner Hall will serve as a central collection and distribution point

Over at Sumner Hall, home of the Grand Army of the Republic Post 25, Barbara Foster, Gordon Wallace and Larry Wilson organized a training workshop to make the coveted homemade masks.

The effort’s leaders are working closely with Kent County Health Officer Bill Webb.  He is working on an official protocol so that production can commence. The pattern is expected any day, according to an email sent by Chester River Health Foundation executive director Maryann Ruehrmund on March 25. She is coordinating the UMMS-Chestertown materials donation effort.

“Sumner Hall has been a historically safe, good place for many who had need, and so it remains as that kind of place today,”  Hoopes said. “So many people — I don’t know, no one will ever know, hidden invisible people sewing, a community unafraid — are together.”

Hoopes is working with Kiley Shipp to recruit and train volunteers.

Shipp spells out the needs:

“Anyone with a sewing machine or scissors can help!! We need 100% tight woven cotton, like what is used for quilting. Anyone willing to donate fabric or 1/4″ elastic is encouraged to do so.”

“I was inspired to start working on masks as soon as I knew I was going to need them once I resumed work for the comforts of my clients and myself,” explained Shipp.

Interested in volunteering through Sumner Hall? Visit Hoopes’ “Face Mask Challenge/Kent County, Maryland” and Shipp’s “Face Mask Warriors” on Facebook . Or call Cheryl Hoopes at 410-708-3321 or email her.  Contact Sumner Hall by email.

Spokes Emerging Around the County

If Sumner Hall is the hub, the spokes are expanding. When Rock Hall’s Mary Cain heard the call from Sumner Hall, she turned to her sewing machine.

“I come from a long line of seamstresses and I have BFA degree in fashion design,” Cain explained. “This news brought  inspiration for a way to help fulfill this dire need.”

As the Parish Administrator of St. Paul’s Church in Kent, Mary spoke with Reverend Frank St. Amour, III, to determine how to engage the Church as a supply station, workshop and collection point for volunteers who could solicit and collect donations, cut the squares of fabric, assemble and sew the masks, and transport them where needed. The parish was happy to respond.

“This is a great example of everyone doing their bit,” Rev. St. Amour said.

After attending training at the Sumner Hall workshop, the  St. Paul’s satellite group has received approval to manufacture medically-approved masks and have started production.  Cain has now been joined by St. Paul parishioners Susanne Hayman, Lynda Wheatley and Rebecca Taylor, among others who are adding their new-found mask-making skills to fight COVID-19.

St. Paul’s has posted mask-making instructions on its website.

Here is another tutorial that was recently published on Youtube.

“The mask pattern is surprisingly simple and lends itself to assembly line production,” Cain said. “Everyone is welcome to join in and help.”

For more information on St. Paul’s, Kent effort, contact Mary Cain – 410-778-1540 or email.