By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

It’s productive procrastination.

Sandy Rozek and several others in the Town of Maine are sewing cotton face masks as a first line of defense against coronavirus.

Creating masks, she said lightheartedly, is a “very nice break from cleaning or reorganizing your closet. … I’m working on them all the time.”

Rozek belongs to Maine Federated Church, which is right across from Most Holy Rosary Church. The friendly congregations share Christmas teas and Ash Wednesday services. And now, Rozek has joined about five MHR women in the project. “It’s a community effort,” she said.

“Some of these women really are marvelous sewers,” said MHR parishioner Ann Marie Stone. “They are well skilled in the sewing region, they really love to sew, and many of them are quilters; and so this is another avenue for them to be of use to the community, and the world!”

As of last week, about 350 of the cloth masks had gone out to places including hospitals, a nursing home, a farmer’s market, Cooperative Extension, MHR essential staff, and individuals.

“Whoever makes a request for it,” Stone said, “we just say, ‘OK, fine, here’s some masks for you.’”

Sandy masks on couch - Face masks of fury: churning them out in Town of Maine

Sandy Rozek says the piles of colorful masks ebb and flow as the hamlet of Maine’s church women keep stitching away. The women also deliver fabric to friends in and out of town who need cloth to make the masks. (Photo courtesy Sandy Rozek)

A thankful hospital

“Lourdes Hospital definitely welcomes the donation of cloth face masks from those in the community,” Lisa Donovan, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, said in an email. “We have seen such generosity in the community with so many people wanting to do whatever they can to help. We are truly humbled by it.

“Lourdes is now masking all patients and asking visitors to wear masks as well, so we do have a need for the community to continue making fabric masks. The fabric masks can be delivered to Lourdes Hospital, 169 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, in a plastic bag; then they will be properly laundered and available for patients, visitors, and as an extra layer of protection for health-care workers to wear over their masks.”

Donovan added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines and mask patterns available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.

“We have a great faith community in Maine where we all work together for the community,” said Deacon Gary DiLallo, MHR Pastoral Associate. “I am very proud of our ladies … that took on this project. For many years they have been making and shipping little girls dresses around the world. Now they are right here serving their community by making face masks for health-care workers. Before the directive came from the state government requiring all essential employees to have face masks we here in Maine were in full compliance.”

In early March, Town of Maine resident Nancy Berry received a request for masks from her granddaughter who works at a hospital in Syracuse. So Berry called Rozek.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll make some calls,’ and we did it,” Rozek said. She called her MHR friend Stone.

“I said, ‘Yes, I’ll get right on it,’” Stone recalled. She reached out to the neighborhood, which, being “out in the country,” extends for a mile or two.

It helps that Rozek has access to a closed elementary school/community center in the Hamlet of Maine. Amassed in a classroom there is a tremendous amount of fabric that came from a deceased quilter whose daughter has donated it for costumes, dresses, and now, face masks.

The women exchange sewing patterns, and the result is not a dull white mask but different combinations of colors. Some masks have a pocket for a filter made of fabric or another material, such as a coffee filter. The women tweak the patterns so they can do them faster, Stone said: “The idea was, how quick can you get these done?”

Russian style

“I just found one from Russia that I really like using,” Rozek said. “They’re all over YouTube.”

As of last week, she had made about 80 masks. Her daughter dropped in one day and asked if she had more masks: “I said I have 30 on the dining room table, pick what you want.”

“Somehow word gets out that we are making masks,” Stone said. She added: “God’s directing us, the Holy Spirit.”

She made a few masks for her husband and herself: “Every time we go out we put it on. … Throw it in the wash and you can use it the next day.”

The dress ministry is on hold for now. Eight or 10 years ago, the sewing experts at MHR, Church of the Holy Family in Endwell, and other churches started making little girls dresses to send with missionaries who were going overseas.

“These masks always find a place to go to where they’re needed and the same thing with the dresses,” Stone said. “It always finds its way there. That’s the providence of God.”


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