Facebook group assists Coles County by making face masks

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Graphic by Logan Raschke

Hannah Shillo, Associate News Editor

Healthcare facilities all over the world have been in need of face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and several places in Charleston, Mattoon and the surrounding areas have gotten their needs filled thanks to members of a Facebook group called “DIY Face Masks For Coles County.”

Submitted Photo
Two health care workers wear homemade masks made by members of the Facebook group DIY Face Masks for Coles County. Lou Conwell, an administrator for the page, said the group delivers the masks to nursing homes, health care facilities and child protective services where they place the masks in bins to avoid physical contact.

In this group, members share posts detailing which facilities need masks and how many each place needs. Then, they put their sewing skills to work.

Mary Davis, of Mattoon, Illinois, created the Facebook group on March 22 with Lou Conwell, of Charleston.

In fact, this was how Davis and Conwell met each other.

When she first heard about the risk of coronavirus hitting the Charleston/Mattoon area, Davis said she wanted to do something to help.

After seeing how outreach from other communities throughout America have been beneficial, Davis decided to post on her own Facebook page asking for others’ help in making masks for places like Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, local nursing homes and other facilities in the area.

Conwell saw Davis’ post and reached out to her.

“I started looking at the (Coles County | Illinois COVID-19 Community Support) group,” Conwell said. “I saw that Mary had also made a post and thought, ‘Well let’s join forces for Charleston and Mattoon and make a Facebook group for Coles County.’”

Davis then set up the page while Conwell started reaching out to facilities in the area asking what they needed.

Conwell said of the 140-plus members of the group, about 40 to 50 members are the “seamstresses” while others help deliver and donate materials.

“I think that so many people want to help because they’re uncertain about what’s coming, and so putting those worries aside and putting the hands into action (helps),” Conwell said.

She said the group had collectively made 1,400 masks in the first six days it was created, and then another 343 in the following three days.

Since creating the group, Davis said everyone helping out has made approximately 2,500 masks altogether, and they have received requests for at least 500 more.

She said she spoke with workers from Carle in Mattoon who have requested 150 masks from the group in addition to the 30 masks they currently have in stock.

Davis encouraged anyone who knows how to sew to volunteer their time to making face masks.

“They’re needed badly,” she said.

Conwell said she follows a pattern shared by JoAnn Fabrics, but some people have their own patterns they follow when sewing masks.

Davis said it takes the average person between 20 and 25 minutes to make one mask, but each person has a different skill level, and some use different patterns and material.

“We have some people that can zip these things out,” Davis said. “I know one lady with another pattern who sewed 28 in one day.”

For the people who do not know how to sew but still want to help out, Conwell said they can join the Facebook group and assist with deliveries or donating supplies.

While Conwell said the group will do “whatever it takes” to get masks to each place asking for them, Davis noted there are some supplies needed in order to make the masks.

Quarter-inch elastic and lightweight fusible interfacing are the two supplies Davis said the seamstresses are in dire need of. They have plenty of fabric.

“Some of the ladies quilt, so they have excess material,” Davis said. “I picked up a couple of banana boxes from a gentleman whose grandma passed away. They had 20 totes full of material.”

Donations of such products can be made by contacting either Conwell or Davis through the Facebook group.

Any facilities in the area in need of masks can also use the Facebook group to contact Conwell or Davis.

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].