Sewing machine soldiers: Locals shift focus to make masks for COVID-19

With big hearts and feverishly working hands, a movement is in play to equip those in need with basic, vital protection – face masks.

Some are sewing at home in their spare time and donating to local hospitals and places in need, others are part of groups dedicating their collective (and now virtual) efforts.

For Nilsa Braganca, sewing for good isn’t anything new, she is just working with a new template. Braganca heads a local group of women called Rainbow Quilters, who normally gather monthly to make blankets and quilts for local homeless shelters, previously to Open Door in Midland and currently supply residents of Shelterhouse with quilts.

The group was started by Femke Huisman in 2014, which is now run by Braganca and they regularly meet monthly to quilt and sew for donations to those in need.

With the current need for protective facial equipment, the group of twelve has pivoted and got to work, creating hundreds of facial masks each week for those in need. For now, their masks are being distributing through the group’s contacts to McLaren Bay Region and also distributing to candidate Sarah Schulz, whose team is broadly collecting and distributing to those in need.

“Our group has been working on giving both help and comfort to those who need help for some time,” says Braganca. “And right now, I think is the perfect time to help others in need in order to keep people safe.”

For Dana Schramm, a volunteer with the Costume Goddesses at Midland Center for the Arts, a volunteer group of costume designers for Center Stage Theatre. It is about using her talents for good.

Dana Schramm, a Costume Goddesses volunteer is hard at work making face masks for those in need.

Schramm is one of seven volunteers from the group, who collectively can turn out approximately 100 masks per day. The group of volunteers are seeking additional help and manpower within the community to help meet the growing need for protective equipment.

“I would encourage anyone who is home and can’t leave their house right now to give this a shot and put your skills to work,” says Schramm. “You can contact Dexter Brigham (brigham@midlandcenter.org) to help get supplies out regionally to various outlets collecting them, or even give them to loved ones who need extra protection right now.”

It’s been an effort the Costume Goddesses conceptualized last week and the group has been working furiously since. Online tutorials and templates are available for different sizes and kinds of masks.

The CDC-approved face masks are going towards many causes, including healthcare staff, members of the non-medical workforce that come into contact with others, like grocery store employees. Masks are also important for those in at-risk populations for when they are in public places like stores, pharmacies and attending essential appointments.

Three different mask styles being made by the Costume Goddesses group at Midland Center for the Arts.

These donations help all hospital systems to reserve N95 masks and other critical personal protective equipment for those workers on the front line assisting COVID-19 patients.

The group is using the costume supplies of Midland Center for the Arts at the moment, but additional supplies may be needed in the future.

“The idea for this group to lend their expertise in sewing and construction began last week,” said Dexter Brigham, Director of Theatre Programs. “The Center is thrilled to be supporting the volunteers with access to supplies from our costume shop to create the masks, and coordinating the pick-up and delivery of these masks to get them in the hands of healthcare professionals.”

Brigham and Midland Center for the Arts are working to direct all masks and other supplies created to the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, who is working to direct supplies to those in need.

Regional donation information can be found through the following resources:

MidMichigan Health donation information:
MidMichigan Health greatly appreciates the support of local communities and is now accepting homemade masks. To help expedite support requests, MidMichigan Health asks that you provide your information by connecting via e-mail to COVID19.SUPPLIES@midmichigan.org. Information will be updated when a drop off location is available, but for now, reach out to the email address included here.

Midland Center for the Arts donation and volunteer information:
For more information about donating supplies, contributing to the construction of homemade face masks, or acquiring face masks for your healthcare practices, please contact Dexter Brigham at Brigham@midlandcenter.org.

Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance supply donation information:
Those looking to contribute can submit more information here:
https://thrivegreatlakesbay.org/regarding-the-coronavirus-covid-19-personal-protection-equipment-necessary-materials/

McLaren Bay Region donation information:
Community members will be able to drop off donations at the McLaren Bay Region marketing building located at 503 Mulholland St., Bay City MI 48708, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is the only location where COVID-19 donations will be accepted at this time.

Covenant HealthCare donation information:
Smaller personal donations and hand-sewn personal masks may be dropped off at:
- 700 Cooper Ave, Saginaw - Front Desk/Drop-box
- 5400 Mackinaw Road, Saginaw - Outdoor drop-off at a Covenant vehicle between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm

Individuals and organizations wishing to make bulk industrial donations of PPE should contact Supply Chain Management at 989.583.4191.

Also see: Covenant HealthCare Donation Requests

Ascension (St. Mary’s) donation information:
No donation was able to be obtained at this time. Information will be updated if and when available.

McLaren Central Michigan donation information:
If you or someone you know has masks to donate, please call 989.772.6720.

Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. As the Managing Editor of Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner. 
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