Over the past month, as face masks have become fewer and farther in between, Precinct 4 sewing and quilting groups that typically meet at Big Stone Lodge and the Mangum-Howell Community Center, as well as volunteers from local churches, have joined forces to make masks for health care providers and first responders in need.
"During Hurricane Harvey, we saw our boating community come together to quickly provide emergency rescue to their neighbors in need," said Cyndi Hill, assistant director of the Precinct 4 Encore!, the precinct's senior program. "In the same manner, our sewing community has come together using the tools of their hobbies."
According to Hill, the first request for masks came on March 23 to which she said the precinct's sewing and quilting classes responded with enthusiasm.
"We estimate 30-40 people working together to share supplies, help cut and prep fabric and assemble masks," Hill said. "Precinct 4 Encore! bus drivers collect these masks and deliver to the organizations in need."
Over the past two weeks, Hill said their volunteers have provided more than 979 masks to entities including the Harris County Fire Marshall's Office, the 911 Call Center, Harris County's mobile COVID-19 testing sites, the Houston Food Bank, CrowdSource Rescue and Precinct 4's temporary Houston Food Bank sorting center.
In addition to these groups, local churches have also partnered with Precinct 4 to provide volunteers to sew masks for Precinct 4 officials to distribute to those in need.
In Spring, Meredith Ridenour, director of ministry operations for Windwood Presbyterian Church, said the church's Prayerful Stitchers and Prayerful Quilters have shifted gears from making prayer shawls and baptism quilts to masks.
"One of the stitchers, her husband is actually the head of the ER at [Willowbrook] Methodist [Hospital], and so several weeks ago when this all started, he had asked for masks just in case they ran out," Ridenour said.
Since then, Ridenour said the stitchers and quilters have formed a Facebook group where they share YouTube videos on mask-making, patterns and other best practices. The group's collective efforts have resulted in approximately 800 masks to be distributed by Precinct 4 officials.
In addition to first responders and health care providers, Ridenour said their masks have been distributed to local nonprofits including the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, Northwest Assistance Ministries, Tomball Assistance Ministries and Cypress Assistance Ministries.
Similarly, Hannah Bush, the kids director for The MET Church in Cypress, said about 30 congregation members have volunteered from their church to make masks for those in need.
"In our first week and a half we were able to make 400-500 masks," Bush said. "And then the precinct has just been able to pick [the masks] up directly from the [volunteers'] homes ... which helps our ladies not have to get out of the house and drive and drop them off somewhere so that's been really great."
Also in Cypress, Copperfield Church has eight volunteers who have made more than 400 masks since March, Communications Director Debbie Gibson said.
"It's the perfect opportunity to help while being quarantined at home during this time," Gibson said. "There is so much we can't do right now, but we can make masks."
Ridenour and Bush said their groups are now switching from making adult masks to making children's masks for the children in Child Protective Services.
"One of the comments [we've received] from one of our ladies who's actually in her eighties was that she just loves the fact that she's able to do something—that she's actually able to help and her skill is actually of an important use for people," Ridenour said.
Hill said the groups plan to continue working together until there is no longer a need for masks and added that volunteers of all experience levels are welcome to join.
To learn more about joining Precinct 4's mask-making efforts, contact Cyndi Hill at email@example.com or call 281-274-4050. Likewise, Hannah Bush with The MET Church can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, Meredith Ridenour with Windwood Presbyterian Church can be contacted at email@example.com and Debbie Gibson with Copperfield Church can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.