PALMYRA, N.Y. — A local group of sewers has made over 30,000 masks for medical staff, Natives Americans, migrant workers and more. It’s called ‘We are in this together, Sew Away Corona.’
Their story starts with Kim Dey, who founded the community through a Facebook group. Her friend, who is a nurse at a local hospital, called her with a concern when the pandemic was just beginning.
“When this all hit she called me and said, ‘oh my god we are gonna run out of masks, can you help,’ and I was like, ‘I can’t sew but I can coordinate,” she said.
So she coordinated a group of people who had the material and interest, and within a week, reached 250 members. From there it continued to grow, and now has over 500 people involved, ranging from age 10 to 94.
Here’s how the process works: sewers show up to her house to pick up or drop off fabric, designs, elastic, and completed masks, while others come to pick them up.
“There’s other locations that people drop stuff off at, and I would pick up from them as well,” she said. Dey said a lot of people and sewing materials are needed, and most of the cost is picked up by the sewers themselves, or donations. “There’s a need for face masks for teachers going back to school, so that’s a high need but each mask takes 45 minutes to make.”
“People found out, we did a lot of large donations as far as Heritage Christian, Epilepsy Foundation, Meals on Wheels” she said.
And then donations for Native Americans, and migrant workers.
“What it was was, we built it, and they came, they heard what we were doing.” Dey said tribes in the Native American community have been hit especially hard with COVID-19.
A group of seniors at Whitney Town Center is also involved in the sewing process. Thanks to some mutual connections, Dey weaved the group of interested seniors into the loop. She said they have an entire set-up in their community room to sew, from early morning to night.
“We’ve made them for stores like Sweet Charity, hospitals, the Navy, we’ve made them for group homes, anybody that needs them,” said Susan Rhody, the activity director at the home.
Rhody says they’re headed towards 7,000 masks in total, out of that group home.
“It helps us by helping others,” she said.
“None of us knew each other before, and then we formed this amazing bond with people,” said Dey. She said the conversation over design and material helped create comradery.
“At this point where we are, we need donations so we can continue, because it is expensive to do everything,” she said. Dey says the group has currently received donations from people including Native Americans, Joanne Fabrics (Dey thanks Senator Pam Helming for setting up) and also the Amish and Mennonite communities.