Mask maker make me a mask

Volunteers use their sewing skills to help put

Courtesy photos | Sheri Loomis                                 Craig Loomis helps to make masks in the Loomis’ kitchen in Haines.

Courtesy photos | Sheri Loomis Craig Loomis helps to make masks in the Loomis’ kitchen in Haines.

Images of volunteers making masks at homes filled Sheri Loomis’ social media feed, and the Haines resident decided she wanted to help out, too.

But when she tried to reach out, she found the only people who were making masks were based in Anchorage and distributing only around that area.

“I saw they weren’t serving Southeast Alaska, they were only serving the areas up north,” Loomis said. “I talked to them personally, I asked if it would be OK if I duplicated what they already had going.”

[Headband-ing together: Local family helps make ear-saving accessories]

And that’s how Southeast Alaska Mask Makers was founded. The local project grew out of a larger nationwide effort sponsored by Joann’s Fabrics fabrics store, which has already gathered just under 60 million masks.

Loomis then reached out to other communities in Southeast and now has groups of volunteers working in Juneau, Haines, Wrangell and Petersburg.

“People have really stepped up help us out,” Loomis said. “We have 34 seamstresses in Haines.”

After roughly three weeks of work, Loomis said she had about 5,000 masks ready to be donated. Masks are sent to anyone who requests them, according to Loomis, but there is a priority list.

“We do distribute in a priority order, starting with health workers, essential workers, vulnerable people,” Loomis said. In Haines, there is no wait for masks but in a larger community, like Juneau, there is a waitlist.

The masks made by volunteers are not meant to replace medical masks, Loomis said, but some medical workers have told her they like to wear them over their N95 respirator masks.

The local Joann’s Fabrics in Juneau was helping out with supplies, but they’re running out, so Loomis said she and the other volunteers are having to get creative.

“I think the whole nation has run out of elastic,” Loomis said with a laugh. “We’ve been pulling out strips out of t-shirts. We’ve been very innovative.”

Making a mask requires knowing how to sew, and while most of the masks themselves are made by seamstresses, non-sewing volunteers have found ways to help too.

“We have male volunteers driving, making wires for the nose pieces,” Loomis said.

Loomis created a Facebook page that has forms where people can make requests for masks and volunteer to help.

“Each community is taking donations to help pay for expenses they incur,” according to Loomis.

Those wanting to participate can make a post on the group’s Facebook page which is checked frequently, Loomis said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

Masks are ready to be donated.

Masks are ready to be donated.

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