Locals make fabric masks in response to COVID-19
Special to the Press-Tribune
Move over Rosie the Riveter, it’s time for Susie the Seamstress. The icon of America’s at-home, can-do attitude in times of global crisis has evolved with seamstresses crafting face masks for workers battling the COVID-19 outbreak.
And, it all started from the mind of Bossier City’s Jessy Gillespie.
Sew You Care enlists the help of volunteers who create reusable, fabric masks for nurses, first responders, delivery people, and other people deemed essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cotton masks are pre-washed and then washed again after being sewn. While they are homemade and not suitable for medical grade protection, they act as a barrier and can help prolong the life of medical masks that are being overused because of the current shortage.
In less than a week, 3,000-plus volunteers had made more than 5,000 masks and Gillespie has received messages from South Africa, Italy, Germany, France, and England about the movement.
“I’m proud to be a nerd. I’m proud to be a seamstress, bringing back a dying art form. I’m proud people are answering the call. I’m proud to know there are so many people out there who feel the same way I do,” she said.
Gillespie feels that the movement is an illustration of the American Spirit — people uniting to help strangers in a time of crisis.
“It is the modern-day Rosie the Riveter. I hear so many stories of grandmothers who took part in helping during WWII who have light again by helping people,” she said.
She added that the movement’s power lies in bringing families together during a time of crisis and giving them something to do at a time when they feel powerless.
“It’s such an easy project and it is helping people so much. Now it took off and I’m chasing my tail,” Gillespie laughed.
However, she knows that the movement is really a stop-gap, explaining, “If you look at the billions of masks that are needed, it’s paralyzing. So, you think about the people who don’t have a choice but to get out there every day.”
Gillespie noted she has received feedback locally to let her know the movement’s impact is being felt in Bossier and Shreveport.
“Volunteer Chris Graham has been delivering the masks directly, and he sent me a picture of nurses who were so happy to get their masks. They are thankful because they know we’re behind them,” she said.
She also thanked the volunteers who are sewing, delivering, researching, connecting, and using social media to promote Sew You Care.
“This was an idea and they turned it into reality. This is not possible without every single one of them,” Gillespie exclaimed.
Currently, the movement needs more seamstresses to sew masks. If anyone who can’t sew wants to participate, they are encouraged to join the Sew You Care Facebook group and help find places in need. Donations are not being taken and materials are not being accepted to avoid cross contamination.
“This is 100% community driven. We are not asking a dime from anybody that needs the masks. This is people helping people. We’re all in this together — we know that the need is out there, and we know there are people who want to help,” Gillespie said.
To join the cause, visit sewyoucare.com. The website has three patterns and tutorials, necessary forms for tracking masks produced and delivered, as well as links to CDC and WHO recommendations for fabric masks.