Judy Johnson likes to say “quilters don’t have an off switch,” and she has recent evidence to prove it.
Johnson has helped shepherd an effort among Sedro-Woolley quilters and community members to make masks for long-term care centers, food banks and other groups that need them. An effort based around three local quilting groups has produced more than 3,000 masks thanks to the work of around 50 volunteers, she said.
She estimates the Woolley Fiber Quilters, Quilters by the River and Bethlehem Lutheran Church Quilters have used about 315 yards of material in making the masks, which were largely made with material volunteers paid for out of their own pockets, although some financial donations were accepted for the cost of elastic.
Johnson said the Sedro-Woolley community is an especially vibrant one, with members who have eagerly taken up their latest mission.
“Once I began asking friends to make masks, they started and they just keep doing it,” Johnson said.
She said the effort is focused on organizations that serve high-risk or needy populations; some of the recipients include the Helping Hands Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and Country Meadow Village, an assisted-living facility in Sedro-Woolley.
Jessica Kiepe, the regional director of Skagit County Disability Services of Volunteers of America, said she reached out on Facebook looking for masks for her staff, which helps care for disabled people in Skagit County. She was connected with Johnson and received masks.
“We wear them in the office; we wear them grocery shopping for clients; we live in them,” she said.
The ongoing effort to make masks in Skagit County stretches well beyond Sedro-Woolley. The Stanwood and Anacortes chapters of Days for Girls, an international organization that usually makes sustainable feminine hygiene products, have taken on the cause with chapters around the country.
“I’m getting phone calls from lots of people,” Anacortes chapter director Carol Olsen said.
The masks are made using a design from Deaconess Health System, which provides both a video and written tutorial. They aren’t suitable for care with COVID-19 patients, according to the Center for Disease Control, but could ease some of the public demand for N95 masks that need to go to centers with COVID-19 patients.
“Something is better than nothing,” Olsen said.
Skagit County resident Sandy McDougall said groups and individuals have made hundreds of masks, which she’s helped route to organizations in need through Skagit County Emergency Management.
McDougall said she and others hope to help anyone “who has to be out there and needs masks.”
People who make the masks can deposit them in one of two drop boxes, one in Mount Vernon behind St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on South 18th Street, and another in Anacortes behind the library. McDougall picks them up to be distributed.
The masks have ended up being used by a variety of agencies, including Skagit County law enforcement, ferry employees and the recently opened COVID-19 testing site at Skagit Valley College.
— Skagit Publishing staff contributed to this report.