MONTICELLO, Ill. (WCIA) — Communities have come together in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Our Town Monticello, the crisis brought some people together through a Facebook group called “Masks for Monticello.”
The Facebook group started in mid-March, after an online discussion about essential workers who needed masks.
“The original focus of the group was to try to potentially cover any shortfalls in PPE for local healthcare practitioners,” says Jenny Carroll, one of the group’s administrators.
Sewers were quickly added to the group. Everyone gathered materials — some of it was bought new, some of it was found tucked away in closets at home. An item that became hard to find at one point was elastic. LeAndra Vogelzang hadn’t sewn in awhile when she got the call.
“I’m like – oh that’s so exciting! So I pull out my sewing machine .. and I don’t know how many masks I would have made .. and then my sewing machine quit!” says Vogelzang. She ordered a new machine so she could get back to work. Making masks was a learning curve she quickly conquered.
“That first one I made — oh my goodness — it was like this long .. and it was long and skinny and I had folded it the wrong way … It looked more like a slingshot kind of thing than it did a mask,” she says.
Administrators started collecting dozens of masks, first giving them to employees at Kirby Medical Center. Then they branched out.
“We started reaching out to local senior care facilities, assisted living, and then eventually we started reaching out to other essential workers. So we provided masks to the local County Market and to the Circle K and Dollar General. So we were really trying amongst us to try and reach out to as many people as we knew had to be out in the community working and would benefit from masks,” says Carroll.
Overall, the sewers made more than 1,500 masks — all before masks became required in public places.
“I would wake up at 4 in the morning and say, ‘oh my goodness time is wasting,’ I need to go and get some more masks done,” says Vogelzang.
The group stopped gathering masks for essential employees in late April, when they had outfitted just about everyone who needed it in the Monticello Area. The group is now a place for sewers to chat about designs, materials and more. Carroll says she was glad to be part of the effort.
“In this day and age, sewing is one of those skills that is maybe a forgotten art … I think it’s really cool that this skill that a lot of these people have, sort of got revived, and it’s something that they can be super proud of and that they put it to good use during this crisis,” says Carroll.
Vogelzang is still making masks — using bright colors and fun patterns. She says if people have to wear a mask, she hopes she can make one that they enjoy putting on.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing for others but I never thought it would be in this light .. and never thought it would be in the use of my sewing machine .. my new sewing machine!”
To learn more about the group, you can search “Masks for Monticello” on Facebook.