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Harford-area groups seeking volunteers to help make masks for health care workers during coronavirus pandemic

Anita Schatz constructs one of the many masks in her workshop located in the basement of her Kingsville home. Schatz and her nonprofit group Angel Gowns by Baba have transitioned to making the much needed masks for healthcare workers, first responders and others.
Anita Schatz constructs one of the many masks in her workshop located in the basement of her Kingsville home. Schatz and her nonprofit group Angel Gowns by Baba have transitioned to making the much needed masks for healthcare workers, first responders and others. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

As calls for masks for health care workers and others battling the coronavirus continue to grow, local people stuck in their homes have cranked up their sewing machines and started making the much-needed items. Social media is abuzz with a variety of information, patterns, instructional posts and videos on how to make and where to donate the masks.

Anita Schatz of Kingsville operates the nonprofit organization Angel Gowns by Baba, which turns donated wedding dresses into gowns for stillborn babies, from the basement of her home. After seeing stories about people needing and making masks for a variety of health care services, Schatz has shifted gears and started making the masks with her group.

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“I personally know someone who died from the virus, that wasn’t what pushed me over the edge. Just seeing the need on television,” Schatz said as she organized a stack of fabric. “I pray about everything, I’m a Catholic, I pray to the Blessed Mother. I tell her to put things in front of me, you send me signs for whatever I need and it seems like that’s when I started finding the patterns and I thought we can do this.”

After researching to find the pattern she thought would be the best, Schatz organized her volunteers and got down to business. The group usually meets in Schatz’s basement workshop but with the current social distancing rules, the group has had to adapt a bit. Volunteers are sewing or doing other tasks at their own homes and making quick stops by the Schatz home to drop off or pick up supplies, which are washed and sanitized.

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Volunteer Patty Miller, who has taken on the task of washing the newly purchased or donated fabric for the masks, made a quick exchange of some freshly washed rolls of fabric for the next pile of fabric ready to be laundered.

“I have hand sanitzer, I have gloves if they feel better wearing them. I have alcohol in a spray bottle so I’m constantly spraying things down as they come in," Schatz said.

The rest of the Schatz family has also gotten involved with son Joe Schatz, who lives close by, and his family helping to cut the cloth into pieces to be sewn together and other tasks.

While Anita Schatz has a small army of volunteers that she is organizing to help, extra hands are always welcome and donations, both materials and money are always appreciated. To lend a hand you can go to Angel Gowns by Baba on Facebook, email agbbinc@gmail.com or call 410-817-4659.

Schatz and her fellow volunteers are not the only local people taking this need into their own hands. Countless individuals in Harford County and the surrounding areas like Debbie Phelan of Havre de Grace have jumped onboard and groups like Making Masks for Maryland started by Jenny Krista of Belcamp offer information for those looking to get involved.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that homemade masks are not considered personal protective equipment, but in settings where facemasks are not available, health care providers may use homemade masks, bandanas or scarves as a last resort when caring for COVID-19 patients.

The University of Maryland Medical System, which operates Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, lists information on its website at umms.org/masks, about how to make masks appropriate for use in their medical facilities.

For the moment, Upper Chesapeake Health isn’t experiencing the shortages of personal protective equipment as other places in the country, said Martha Mallonee, a spokesperson for the health system.

The medical system is accepting cloth masks and some have already been dropped off, she said, noting the CDC’s recent guidance on the use of cloth masks in certain settings.

Donated masks need to undergo inspection and a distribution process needs to be developed before they can be used, she said.

“We will consider these masks as an option when we get to a shortage of standard personal protection equipment,” Mallonee wrote in an email. “It has been heartening to live and work in a community that cares about their hospital teams during this difficult time.”

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