Volunteers throughout Miami County are working together to provide residents and service providers an extra measure of safety and peace of mind amid the ongoing health crisis by sewing facemasks for anyone who needs them.
“As a business that was slowing down, we were just thinking about what we could do to help,” Sandra Tossou told the Tribune on Tuesday.
Tossou, who owns Dreams to Reality Cakes and Aroma Coffee shop on North Broadway, said a family member who works in health care in Fort Wayne told her about a shortage of masks during the COVID-19 outbreak, so she started asking people if that were the case here.
“I thought, ‘I bet Miami County has a need,’” she recalled. “I got a huge response back.”
That response led to the formation of a Facebook group called “Miami County Let’s Sew!!” which has been producing hand-sewn masks for the community.
Tossou formed the group on Saturday and it has grown to well over 150 members since that time.
“Today, we gave out 200 masks,” she said on Tuesday.
And the group has cut fabric to produce about 800 more.
That amount of work, Tossou said, is able to get done because the group is trying to distribute it to anyone who wants it, no matter their skill level.
“We’ve got patterns for people that maybe want to cut fabirc that don’t know how to sew,” she said.
The group has a backlog of requests but has, so far, given out masks to area nursing homes, law enforcement agencies and workers from other entities considered “essential” and have to be out.
“These are employees that just want to be safe,” she said.
It’s a lot of work keeping up, and there is plenty to do, beyond the production.
Organizers and volunteers have to arrange to collect donated materials and even source materials they are running low on.
“We are waiting on elastic to come in so we can finish masks,” Tossou said. “That’s a huge need for us.”
She’s found outlets for securing some of that, and posts in the group suggest others are sewing in surplus hair ties. Tossou said she also is getting an order of macrame cord to make non-elastic versions of the masks that can be tied.
And if that was not enough, she is also looking for ways to get her hands on large quantities of supplies in order to make hand sanitizer after hearing of a need for that with the community, as well.
The need and the amount of work sounded like it was more than she expected, but Tossou said that with traffic at her bakery and coffee shop drastically reduced (they are still open for carry out business) because of the health emergency, it is work worth doing.
“My business is slow right now,” she said. “So if I can take a moment and help the community, that’s what I am doing.”
Those interested in volunteering or donating supplies can visit the Facebook page “Miami County Let’s Sew!!”