‘We’re doing our part’

Published 3:31 pm Monday, March 23, 2020

Family sewing face masks to give to Mason City hospital


Three area women are stepping in to fill a need for more face masks for health care workers at MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center in Mason City during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albert Lean Sarah Rask; her sister, Robyn Hillman, of Gordonsville; and their mother, Kay Rask, are creating masks with a pattern approved and shared by the hospital and have plans to make 360 masks when complete.

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As of Monday morning, the sisters and their mother had already made 100.

“This is something we can do, so that feels really good,” Sarah Rask said.

Hillman is a nurse in the critical care unit at the Mason City hospital, so the need for masks hit close to home for the family. They said the hospital was so low on masks that workers were to the point of having to reuse them.

The masks are made with a layer of cotton fabric on the front and back — the layer on the front is a thicker duck canvas cotton — and then elastic to keep the mask in place. The fabric is pre-washed and shrunk.

Sarah Rask said she and her mother worked six hours Saturday and seven hours Sunday on the masks, and Hillman and her mother planned to work most of the day Monday, as well. They anticipated they would finish all of the batches next week.

They had an assembly line of sorts set up Monday morning with Hillman ironing the fabric, her sister cutting the fabric the appropriate size and their mother sewing the pieces together.

The women said they have received $215 in donations for supplies and are waiting for more elastic to arrive in the mail because it is out of stock at stores such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michael’s and Walmart.

“People are going above and beyond to come together,” Sarah Rask said, noting that she had one friend alone who donated $100 to help with supplies.

Hillman said as a health care worker herself, the situation at times can be overwhelming. While the health care industry has some kind of idea of what to expect as the coronavirus spreads, they have to be as prepared as they can.

There have been two confirmed cases of the virus so far in Cerro Gordo County. She could not comment on whether those individuals had been treated at the MercyOne hospital.

Hillman said one other critical concern right now in the health care industry is for blood donations.

She said LifeServe Blood Center in Mason City allows people to set up appointments to give blood, and donors are screened ahead of time. The Red Cross said last week, individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood with the Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

Kay Rask, who has been sewing most of her life, said the opportunity to make the masks has made her proud she is helping others.

“We’re doing our part,” Sarah Rask said.