Louisiana, USA: Community takes to sewing machines to make masks for hospitals in need
Christine Savoie learned to sew in the fourth grade for a 4H project. She learned from her mother, who learned from her mother.
“I come from a Cajun family where everyone knows how to sew,” Savoie said.
The 24-year-old isn’t a seamstress, she said. But she can use the skills she has to make face masks for local hospitals. Hospitals nationwide are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment because of the coronavirus pandemic, including face masks and gloves.
“My calling wasn’t to be a nurse,” Savoie said. “But I think we’re all called to help people.”
A graduate student studying history at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Savoie said she’s had more free time since her classes moved online because of the coronavirus outbreak. She first heard about the effort to sew masks from a friend who pointed her to a Lake Charles group that was doing the same.
“It comes at time where I have the free time, I have the skill and, to me, there’s no excuse that I shouldn’t be helping at this time,” she said.
Savoie has picked eye-catching patterns with ties to Acadiana and the South. Some have crawfish, UL, LSU and the Saints. She hopes the patterns will put people at ease like she was when she came out of surgery and saw a nurse wearing a bright bandana.
The Crowley native will donate masks to both Lafayette General Health and Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center. Making donations to Lourdes is especially important to Savoie. It’s where her grandfather was treated for and beat cancer.
The homemade masks will not be used for patient-facing healthcare professionals, said Patricia Thompson. They’re being sent home with patients who are placed under quarantine and can be used by hospital staff who want to limit their exposure but aren’t patient-facing.
Thompson said the hospital has received calls from all over the country from people looking to donate because they have family in the healthcare industry or used to live in Lafayette and want to help.
“It sends a strong message that we have a community that really wants to help,” she said. “This is an outpouring of love.”
For Katie Sellers, sewing masks was a way to ease the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. She had a sinus infection about three weeks ago, but the cough lingered. Seeing the news about COVID-19 made her worry.
“I had to step back and say, ‘what can I control?’” she said. “Doing this project has completely wiped away a lot of the anxiety for me. It’s given me something to do, it’s given me purpose.”
It was the first project Sellers started on her sewing machine that she bought a month ago on Facebook Marketplace. When she saw the post on Lafayette General’s Facebook page about the need for homemade masks, she knew she had to get to work.
Sellers arrived at Lola Pink Fabrics when it first opened on Saturday. The staff helped her pick the right fabric and tools because she didn’t have anything other than the machine at home. When she started the project, she had to Google and use YouTube to refresh her sewing memory.
“This is a better time than never to learn to sew and make my first project a meaningful one,” she said. “It took a few tries to figure out the best way to do it. The very first one I did, it didn’t turn out great. It’s functional, it’s just not pretty.”
Each mask has something a little different, Sellers said. Some have ties in the back and others have elastic. Some masks have crawfish or little stamps of Louisiana. Others are blue or pink patterned.
But every mask has a heart pattern on the inside.
“I want people to know that all of these are made with love,” she said. “Some frustration, but with love.”
Donations can be dropped off at the United Way of Acadiana from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays at 215 E. Pinhook Road and the Cajundome screening site from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
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