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Vermont Volunteers Are Sewing As Many Face Masks As They Can

Displayed cloth face masks in different colors.
Pam Cross, Courtesy
St. Albans resident Pam Cross has organized a network of volunteer sewers who have produced 600 cloth face masks. Cross is one of a number of sewers mobilizing across Vermont.

New guidance from the Vermont Department of Health has increased demand for face masks across the state, and volunteer sewers like Pam Cross are trying to boost supplies.

Cross, who lives in St. Albans, is a retired registered nurse who worked at Northwestern Medical Center for more than 40 years.

She said she began anticipating the need for cloth facemasks about two weeks ago. Cross said she did some research on mask design, started a Facebook group, “and all of a sudden it mushroomed.”

Want to help make cloth masks? Click here to visit the St. Albans Face Mask Facebook group.

Cross and her network of volunteer sewers have distributed 600 homemade masks so far, to local nursing homes, grocery store workers, the Northwest Unit for Special Investigations, and mental health workers at Northwestern Counseling and Support Services.

“My sewers are donating from their supplies, so all of (these materials have) been just personal donations towards this effort,” Cross said.

She added she isn’t soliciting financial contributions, but is accepting donations of supplies. She said the elastic that holds the mask in place, and the interfacing used on the interior of the masks, have become especially difficult to source.

Cross, who’s been sewing since she was six years old, said the volunteer effort is a way to give back to the community she grew up in.

A hand on a turquoise sewing machine with masks under the foot.
Credit Pam Cross, Courtesy
In addition to face masks, volunteer sewers are producing isolation gowns.

“I know that sounds corny,” Cross said. “But … this is a small thing I do. This is something I can do that is meaningful and needed within our community.”

Volunteers sewers are mobilizing across the state. For instance, the Facebook group "Sewing Masks - Southern VT Area" is organizing volunteers to sew masks for health care workers on both sides of the Connecticut River.

Quilt shops are pitching in too. The Quilter's Corner shop in Middlebury is coordinating with a local retirement community and a thrift store to distribute masks to community members and to Porter Hospital, and it is working with the Lyric Theater in South Burlington to hand out mask-making kits.

The shop is is also arranging sewing isolation gowns for Porter, and has asked anyone interested in helping to email for more information.

A Quilter's Garden in Montpelier is offering anyone who wants to make isolation gowns a big discount and curbside pickup for fabric. Onits Facebook page, the shop has posted a meme that will speak to many quilters, known as a group for having, well, a lot of fabric:

"And just like that, I went from fabric hoarding to being prepared."

Looking for help, or ways to help others? Check out VPR's COVID-19 resource and volunteer guide.

UPDATE: This post was edited at 8:06 p.m. on 4/4/20 to clarify the recipients of the donated face masks.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
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