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Making a difference by making masks for health care providers –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Olney-area women are doing their part to help medical professionals at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and other local health care providers stay safe.

Helen Mao said she learned from a friend about people elsewhere who are sewing fabric masks to donate to hospitals.

She posted a note on the Olney Brookeville Exchange online site asking if anyone was sewing masks for the community’s hospital — MedStar Montgomery. She received many responses from those willing to help.

Kathleen Donodeo contacted the emergency management specialist at MedStar Montgomery, who told her “they absolutely could use them.”

“They have enough N95 masks for now, but you never know,” Donodeo said. “Also, they could give these to those in lower-risk positions and save the N95s for those who absolutely need them.”

N95 masks have a very efficient filtration of airborne particles, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Donodeo found a video of how to make a fabric face mask and sent it to her hospital contact, who approved it.

“That’s when the ball started rolling,” Mao said. “I hadn’t sewn in years and had gotten rid of my supplies, so I posted asking if people had fabric or elastic to donate. Elastic is especially hard to come by right now.”

Many people responded, and Mao has taken on the role of coordinator, collecting and distributing supplies, while maintaining proper social distancing measures.

Volunteers are also sewing masks for Suburban Hospital in Bethesda and Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. Lisa Hurley, who has made more than 400 masks for area hospitals, is coordinating the Suburban effort and Andrea Martinez is coordinating the Holy Cross project.

Glenna Christopher, owner of Christopher’s Hardware in Sandy Spring, offered to keep a box on the porch of the store to collect the completed masks.

Martinez has sewn drawstring bags for collecting, transporting and laundering the masks.

The seamstresses’ effort has expanded — at the hospital’s request, they have also started to make headbands featuring large side buttons to which the mask can be attached, to prevent irritation from elastic behind the ears.

They have also been in touch with local nursing homes and other medical offices requesting masks.

Mao said she is unsure of how many masks have been made so far, since everyone is making them on their own.

“I think we will keep doing it until we run out of supplies,” she said.

Donodeo said the project is a nice way for people stuck at home to be able to do something.

“I have never met any of these people — we’ve just talked through the list serv. Everybody wants to chip in and do what they can.”


    To donate supplies or make arrangements for pick-up of supplies, contact Helen Mao at [email protected].

    To donate to Suburban, send an email Lisa Hurley at [email protected]/.

    To donate to Holy Cross, send an email Andrea Martinez at [email protected]

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