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In these days of self distancing and staying home as much as possible, retired teacher Nora Kelting now fills her time by sitting down in front a 50-year-old sewing machine she was given as a high school graduation present.
She and her trusty old friend are doing something important — using fabric from a high school French Club fundraiser she helped host four years ago to make protective masks.
"Students brought remnants from their moms’, grandmas’ and aunties’ stashes. I could not bring myself to get rid of the leftover cloth," Kelting told the Kansan. "I can’t help but think of those kids as I work."
She, like others in Newton, saw a news story originating from Indiana, where a hospital had published the patterns for masks that can be used by patients and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I figured if they needed them in Indiana, others would need them too," Kelting said.
And others do. Newton Medical Center received the first donated home-made masks from community members Wednesday.
"A BIG thank you to everyone who is creating cloth masks for our hospital staff," the center staff wrote on its Facebook page. "We are so overwhelmed with the love and support from each and every single one you!"
The hospital also asked people to consider making bouffants, a head covering for staff.
For Wendy Funk Schrag, getting materials together and sewing masks is something that can respond to multiple needs. It is a project to fill both her time, and that of her mother-in-law.
"One of the reasons I thought of doing these masks is because of Frances (Schrag)," Funk Schrag said. "She is at home all the time now. She volunteered at the Et Cetera Shop and at a preschool, and now she is sitting at home. ... I thought, that is something we can do together, and something meaningful she could do."
Funk Schrag was not sure where the masks they make will be donated — though she believes there are nursing homes and hospitals that will take them as they are produced.
"I understand they are a last resort, in a medical setting," Funk Schrag said. "People who are sick and use them when they are at home, or getting groceries."
Kelting found a taker for her first six — an acquaintance she met while shopping for supplies.
She told The Kansan when one man in the store heard what she was planning, he asked what she planned to do with the masks she makes.
"He asked, ’How much do you want for some masks?’ " Kelting said.
He was wearing a store-purchased mask, which was looking quite worn at the time.
"He said, I have this one, and it will not last," Kelting said.
She took his name and number, then went home and started to work.
Once materials are cut, the sewing process takes about 20 minutes.
When she finished her first six, Kelting called her new acquaintance to arrange for pickup of those masks. He was a bit taken aback when she would not accept money for them — and that she gave him more than one.
"I asked him if he wanted to be able to wash them between wearing them," Kelting said. "He now has masks he can use and reuse to protect himself.
Funk Schrag and Schrag pieced 32 masks on Day 1 of their project, and have been working to complete them ever since. Funk Scrhrag said through social media, she has met others in the community who are making masks for Youthville, and area retirement centers.