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Richmond area seamstresses make face masks for Central Virginia nurses

“I just wanted to do whatever I could to support them"
Posted at 7:24 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 08:26:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of seamstresses and community members have joined a grassroots effort to get handmade face masks to Central Virginia first responders.

Julie Kratzer helped organize the Facebook group “RVA Masks 4 Health” shortly after the novel coronavirus pandemic began.

“I have this plethora of fabric and knowledge about sewing,” Kratzer explained. “I started seeing nurses begging for these masks all around the country.”

The Midlothian mother ran an Etsy craft store online prior to opening her coffee business. Kratzer now focuses on linking people who have supplies with those who can sew.

“It’s pretty easy. You don’t really have to know how to sew that well to make one of these things,” She described during a FaceTime interview. “It’s literally a rectangle of fabric that you sew little pieces of elastic into each side. The hardest part is just making these pleats, but you sew across those, and you have a mask.”

The handmade masks are designed to wear in addition with an N95 or surgical mask.

Cynthia Jaeger felt the need to help despite being quarantined with her family in Mechanicsville.

“I just wanted to do whatever I could to support them a little, because they’ve supported us in some really hard times,” Jaeger explained

Her family has spent countless hours in the hospital - her three children were diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.

“There are local pediatrician offices that are begging for these,” Jaeger stated. “One of the local pediatric urgent care facilities have requested 120, but it’s all free.”

Jaeger closed her sewing business to focus on getting her children better a few years ago. She hoped to finish at least 200 masks on her own by the end of the week.

“You can’t even go and bring them coffee or food because all of those things are contamination risks,” Jaeger said. “But, you can offer a mask that can be washed, sanitized and re-used.”

HCA Virginia posted on Facebook Monday that donation boxes have been set up outside of their Metro Richmond hospital emergency rooms.

“We love our community and we understand there are people and groups who want help keep our staff safe as we work through the COVID-19 crisis. We have set up boxes directly outside our ER entrances at Chippenham, Johnston-Willis and Swift Creek Freestanding for people to drop off items. We are honored to accept any of your donations of masks (all kinds), gloves, and more. Thank you for supporting our team,” the post read.

A HCA Virginia spokesperson said work is underway to put out donation boxes at their additional emergency rooms in Richmond, as well.

Bon Secours facilities are not accepting handmade masks at this time. A spokesperson said in a statement:

“To ensure the continued health and safety of patients and associates, Bon Secours regularly monitors current supplies and began planning early. We have plans in place to support our needs and remain committed to the appropriate and responsible use of supplies and equipment, at this time and always.

This applies to COVID-19 tests, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ventilators and other resources. We are resourcing from around the globe and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on appropriate usage. In addition, we are working collaboratively with other health care and government agencies through this unprecedented event. Our clinical leaders have implemented protocols that are consistent with CDC guidelines to ensure the quality and safety of the care we provide to our patients.

We will proactively share important updates as the situation merits and evolves. We appreciate you reaching out and we will be sure to stay in touch.”

A VCU Health spokesperson said they were working on collecting information about donations.