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Local Catholics make thousands of masks for CCS, health-care workers; more needed

An employee of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington expresses gratitude for one of the 6,000 masks that quilters and sewers around Western Washington have made as part of CCS’ virtual “sewing bee.” The initial goal is 10,000 masks for CCS employees, with another 10,000 masks needed for farmworkers around the archdiocese. Photo: Courtesy Catholic Community Services An employee of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington expresses gratitude for one of the 6,000 masks that quilters and sewers around Western Washington have made as part of CCS’ virtual “sewing bee.” The initial goal is 10,000 masks for CCS employees, with another 10,000 masks needed for farmworkers around the archdiocese. Photo: Courtesy Catholic Community Services

Hunkered down in their homes during the governor’s COVID-19 stay-home order, Catholic quilters and sewers are doing good with the time on their hands, making protective face masks for hospitals, home health workers and others who serve the public.

“It’s kind of been a blur. It’s all we’ve been doing,” said Maureen Larson, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Federal Way, who started sewing masks in late March.

Larson, along with 11 fellow parishioners and eight other local sewers, produced 1,500 masks for the CHI Franciscan health system in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties.

The goal is 25,000 masks — three for each CHI Franciscan employee, according to Jone Howard, a member of the St. Anthony Hospital auxiliary in Gig Harbor, which distributed kits with enough fabric to make 100 masks.

“We worked our little fingers off the first week,” said Teresa McFadden, who sewed 242 masks along with her mother Iolanda Rossman, a St. Vincent parishioner. McFadden said she was inspired to help because her sister works in an intensive care unit and some of her cousins are nurses and doctors.

“I would do anything to keep them safe,” she said.


Janet Sonnichsen, a member of St. Hubert Parish on Whidbey Island, is making masks for distribution to health care groups, charities and businesses on the island. Photo: Courtesy Kathy Zunino

Other sewers have responded to a request from Catholic Community Services of Western Washington for 10,000 masks to supply its 2,000 home-care workers and 1,600 other employees who serve elders, families and medically fragile people. The goal is two or three reusable masks for each employee, according to Rosemary Zilmer, CCS vice president for fund development.

Since putting out the “CCS Sewing Bee” request on April 2, CCS has received more than 6,000 masks, Zilmer said in an email.

“We are deeply grateful at the response,” she said, noting that even more masks will be needed — including 10,000 masks for farmworkers in Western Washington.

“We hope the generous hands and hearts of our sewers will continue as long as there is need,” Zilmer said.

Other parishes, including St. Hubert in Langley, are making masks to help meet the need on Whidbey Island and beyond.

A half-dozen St. Hubert parishioners are making two types of fabric masks — the basic rectangular, pleated style and a fitted style to slip over the N95 masks that front-line health care workers need for the best protection, according to parishioner Kathy Zunino. The homemade cover allows the N95 mask to last longer, she explained.

“There’s still a need for the non-surgical masks,” said John Joynt, a St. Hubert parishioner. “People need to keep busy and the sewing machines get fired up.”

The St. Hubert’s group has sent masks to volunteers at Operation Sack Lunch in Seattle and — through a community Facebook group — to first responders, health professionals, grocers, home-care facilities, transportation workers and members of the military, Zunino said.

“The masks are easy enough to make. We just need some able bodies to sew them,” said Kymy Johnson, a Langley resident who organizes the Facebook group. (See box for ways you can help.)

As people follow the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, volunteers will continue making masks, Joynt said.

“The need for masks is going to be never-ending, probably until the end of summer,” he said.

Help make masks

Homemade masks are needed to protect health care workers and others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are two places asking for lots of masks:

  • Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services

Join the CCS Sewing Bee, which has an initial goal of 10,000 masks to help protect employees who serve elders, families and vulnerable populations. An additional 10,000 masks will be needed for farmworkers in Western Washington. Click here to find links to sewing instructions, a video tutorial and a list of locations around Western Washington where masks can be mailed or dropped off.

  • CHI Franciscan health system

CHI Franciscan, which operates health care facilities in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties, needs 25,000 masks to protect its health care professionals. Masks must meet specific criteria to provide proper protection. Find instructions and patterns on the donation page (scroll down to “standard medical masks”).

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