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Finding a New Purpose: Common Thread Volunteers Sew and Donate Masks for Dayton Hospice

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by Patricia McGeever

The boxes arrived in late March at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton. They contained 500 handmade, bright red covers for N95 face masks, courtesy of the sewing charity, Common Thread in Cincinnati. N95 masks are being used by health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The covers were made to help the N95 supply of masks last longer for the hospice workers who will need them.

“We’re real blessed. We’re kind of an instrument,” said Laurie Winkler, coordinator of the Common Thread. “We do what we to do help to everyone else and we’re very happy and pleased to do it.”

Common Thread is made up of young people who meet once a month at St. Catharine of Siena in Westwood. The mask covers are a new item for the group, who is known for sewing bibs, burp cloths, mittens, IV pole wraps, mini-totes and chemo port pillows for area hospitals. It’s grown to 70 volunteers including some from outside the parish. Many seniors are also involved. They knit
and crochet blankets, booties and baby hats that are delivered to hospitals.

Everything is created from donated materials that always happen to come at the right time. Not long ago, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Bellefountaine donated some waterproof fabric. Co-coordinator Janet Murphy wasn’t sure how it could be used. The group also got other big donations causing her to say to her colleagues, “From the looks of what we’re getting, something big is going to happen.”

The N95 face mask is a critical part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals and they’re in short supply. Murphy thought the waterproof material would make a perfect cover for the masks. The Common Thread team found a pattern online and modified it. The outside of the mask covers are waterproof. The liners are made of 100 percent very fine cotton donated by Mike and Carol Trotta Custom Tailors in downtown Cincinnati. The elastic was left over from a previous project. The team was ready to start sewing when the president of a drapery making company made Common Thread an offer. His business was closed under Governor Mike DeWine’s order to temporarily shut down nonessential businesses and his workers furloughed. The businessman, who preferred to stay anonymous, offered make the mask covers for Common Thread so his employees could get four more days of work and pay.

“I think everyone needs to help each other in this time of need,” he said. “I approached them and they were happy to do it,” he said of his workers.

Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton acknowledged the delivery and says it appreciates the community support its received during the coronavirus outbreak. It released a statement that says in part, “While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance does not recommend these types of masks in most clinical settings, these mask covers may serve as a line of defense should we
exhaust all other approved PPE.”

Common Thread was also able to donate 100 of the mask covers to St. Elizabeth in Northern Kentucky and 35 to Hospice of Cincinnati. Murphy says the group will wait and see what becomes of the mask covers before taking on the next big project.

“It’s like our finest hour,” she said. “We’ve been waiting, and we are prepared.”

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