Seamstresses help fill facemask shortage with collaborative online non-profit group

Gloria McClure, a Westwood resident, is participating in a nationwide effort to sew facemasks to help meet the demand and keep healthcare workers safe. She was invited to participate by her daughter, Elizabeth Braccialini, who lives in Susanville.

Braccialini said she saw an old friend from Westwood High reaching out on Facebook so she checked out the post and made contact with Heather Best Klinker who launched “Seamstresses in Service” Friday, March 20.

Gloria McClure of Westwood assembles the materials she will need to make facemasks to help meet emergency needs. The effort is organized by Heather Best Klinker through a Facebook page called Seamstresses in Service. Photo by Gloria McClure

Klinker wrote on the Facebook page: “I started this sewing group due to a growing need brought to my attention by several people in lots of different fields having to interface with the public right now. As we know masks are in extreme shortage because they are in high demand all over the world. I was told on the down low that one nurse was asked to bring a bandana to work. It is a scary time for those in our health care industry and our vulnerable population. We can gather together and provide coverage to produce these for our local doctors and nurses and our vulnerable population.”

These masks do not replace surgical or N95 masks, but they are an alternative when nothing is available, said Braccialini. According to Klinker, she shipped 100 masks to an emergency room near New York City. Larger hospitals in this metropolitan area were obtaining all the supplies but the ER was inundated with patients and ran out of facemasks.

In Meridian, Idaho where Klinker lives, the production of masks is a community effort and together 100 a day are produced.

“I will put fabric out and someone picks it up and cuts it puts it back on my doorstep. I sew it and put it back out for someone to trim and iron. I do the pleats and nose piece and we distribute it,” said Klinker.

The pattern she picked is simple to sew and cut so many people can take part. Braccialini said she can’t sew but realized she could help with donations and getting people involved. Since her contact with Klinker, she has taken the lead with the local effort and is willing to pick up and drop off items on doorsteps in keeping with social distancing. Locally people who want to help with masks can reach Braccialini on the Seamstresses in Service Facebook page or by email at [email protected] If a request for a shipment of masks can be met locally, Klinker would email a shipping label. She has accounts with UPS Express and Stamps.com. The first priority is to meet local need, then when possible to fill requests.

Klinker has found there are large groups of willing seamstresses on Facebook but no one to organize them. She helped fill a need in Virginia by organizing a group of seamstresses in that state via Facebook.  In addition to the Westwood area, she has a group formed in Red Bluff and a couple teams launching in the Sacramento area and Southern California.

“I wanted to help out,” said McClure.

Although she had not had her sewing machine out in five years, she had material. Her daughter dropped off patterns and hairbands, which are being substituted for elastic since no one can find this product, to make the masks.

“There are jobs for everyone so don’t think if you don’t sew well, or own an iron, you can’t help,” said Klinker.

There is information on the Facebook site on how to make a financial donation. Klinker is creating a spread sheet to track donations and costs. At the end of the project, she will publish it.

On the Seamstresses in Service Facebook page, Klinker wrote: “This group was created as a free, not for profit group to step up and help our communities.”

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