Making masks for healthcare heroes

Portage resident spends 'stay-at-home' order making dozens of masks for friends in healthcare industry
Posted at 8:24 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 09:28:36-04

PORTAGE, Mich. — Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Kellie Boers kept reading posts on social media from a friend stating how busy she was at work.

Boers' friend was a nurse, she said.

So Boers sent her message saying ‘How are you doing?’

“She said she was scared to death,” Boers remembered. “She’s putting alcohol up her nose everyday because she has no mask to wear at work. So I said I better make her a couple of masks.”

That’s what Boers did. She had an old sewing machine and got the materials. However she didn’t know how to sew.

“I did not,” Boers laughed. “I watched a few different YouTube videos and there’s lots of patterns out there that can be utilized. And while there are some that are quite elaborate and very nice, those are above my skill set. So I’m making the simple version.”

Since Monday night, Boers made at least 60 masks, she said. She figured since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the ‘stay-at-home’ order she’d spend her time making masks for friends in the healthcare industry.

“I’m running out of supplies as fast as I can make ‘em,” Boers said. “We have a mailbox drop off. I put stuff in the mailbox. People pull up, pull it, take their masks out or put fabric and elastics in. And then I start making the next bunch.”

Boers, who's a well-known missing persons advocate in the state, said she’s currently making them for doctors, nurses, caregivers, CNAs, and other people in the healthcare profession. And, she makes them correctly.

“An important thing for people making handmade masks, it’s important that those masks cover from the bridge of the nose to underneath the chin,” said Josh Fitzgibbon, the community activities branch director with Bronson Healthcare. “And be able to cover the cheeks and secure well around the ear or be tied behind the back of someone’s head.”

Fitzgibbon added during the FaceTime interview that people making the masks should note that the doctors and nurses who will be wearing them will have them on all day.

Saturday March 21, Bronson Healthcare announced that they’re accepting new and unused face masks, N95 masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment due to a ‘critical shortage.’

Since then they’ve received dozens of masks and other items, Fitzgibbon said.

“It’s been a great boost to everyone’s morale to just see everyone in the community asking us ‘how can they help?” Fitzgibbon said. “How can they help us make sure that as a community, and communities across Southwest Michigan, we’re able to make it through this COVID-19 situation together.”

Fitzgibbon added that people have been dropping them off at the hospital. However, he recommended people take them to one of the five sites in Southwest Michigan they established. And, if people want to contribute monetarily they can do so through the COVID Rapid Response Fund set up by the Bronson Health Foundation.

Boers hasn’t donated her masks to Bronson just yet. However she encourages other people with sewing machines to make them and do so.

“I don’t know what I would do if I was in those positions,” Boers said. “So other people stepping up to help seems like just the right thing to do.”