ON A MISSION

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Group making, donating masks for at-risk residents during COVID-19 pandemic

  • NC Mask Makers
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Area resident and Mitchell County NC Mask Makers member Janice Jackson sews a mask that will be donated to at-risk people during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted)

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends everyone wear a mask in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19, and a recent shortage of masks has led local craftspeople to sew their own and donate them to people in the community.  

Nearly one month ago, Yancey County resident Joy Boothe decided to make a dozen masks for some friends in the medical field. When she saw a greater need, she created the Facebook group called “Yancey County Mask Makers.” 

“It mushroomed and grew really organically,” Boothe said. “These volunteers see that we have the opportunity to get washable, breathable masks to our medical providers and others to slow down the rate of spread in Mitchell and Yancey counties.”

Mitchell County resident Janice Jackson saw what Boothe had started in Yancey County and thought Mitchell County residents should get involved as well. Jackson started a Facebook group called the “Mitchell County NC Mask Makers” Tuesday, March 30, which grew to more than 100 members within a week.

“We’re just trying to fill the need,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a lot of at-risk people in this community, especially in the medical field, and we’re just trying to help protect them.”

Jackson said the group had created and delivered approximately 125 masks as of Monday, April 6, to places such as DaVita Dialysis, Mitchell County Health Partnership, the Mitchell Senior Center and more. 

The Yancey County group has donated more than 100 masks to Blue Ridge Regional Hospital. While doctors and nurses who have direct contact with patients will not wear homemade masks, the hospital has allowed support staff to wear them. 

Jackson and her daughter, Samantha Grindstaff, are collecting masks from volunteers on Monday and Thursday mornings then delivering them to various locations who requested them. 

“This effort is not only providing masks to people in the community, but it’s also empowering them,” Grindstaff said. “When people are donating fabric and masks, they’re contributing to an important cause.”

Both Boothe and Jackson said they make no medical claims for the effectiveness of their masks. The Mitchell County group is making both children’s and adult sizes, which require a filter of some kind. Grindstaff said a coffee filter or heavy-duty paper towel would work. 

Message Grindstaff or Jackson on Facebook to request a mask or to donate fabric.