For Emergency Mask Makers Group, It's Mission Accomplished | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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For Emergency Mask Makers Group, It's Mission Accomplished 

Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers Facebook group puts operations on pause, after making 31,000+ masks

In late March, a Facebook group centered around addressing the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers in Central Oregon emerged from the ether. After starting the Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers Facebook group in mid-March, organizers said the group quickly exploded in size, garnering 1,000 members in the first few days. Today, that group has over 3,500 members who joined to help sew masks, distribute materials and get masks on the faces of health care professionals.

As of Friday, that group is putting its operations on pause, after creating over 31,000 masks locally, and helping St. Charles Health System meet its goal of having 10,000 community-made masks on hand to help shore up their stockpile of manufactured masks.

click image The Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers Facebook group's home page image, with a "ticker" of how many masks and face shields the group made. - COEMM ON FACEBOOK
  • COEMM on Facebook
  • The Central Oregon Emergency Mask Makers Facebook group's home page image, with a "ticker" of how many masks and face shields the group made.

Timothy Gorbold, a product innovation developer at RuffWear in Bend, told the Source in March that he wanted to help with the PPE shortage—so he went onto the page of the Facebook group, Pandemic Partners Bend, where he connected with Laura Wang, a former ER nurse turned stay-at-home mom whose husband is a medical device distributor, and Elisa Rebecca Melton, who works in product management, and whose husband is the manager of the surgical unit in Bandon, Oregon. The group then formed COEMM, working to make masks, set up drop sites for supplies and finished masks, coordinate the efforts around the 3-D printing of face shields, and eventually, working with St. Charles—where, at its Bend location, providers are treating the region's COVID-19 patients.

"Our group was outstanding in its ability to fill requests," Elisa Rebecca Melton told the Source Friday. "Sometimes I would go to collect at the end of the day and the giant totes at the drop sites were overflowing with zip lock bags full of masks. It was just an overwhelming effort by all the seamstresses."

And while the efforts have resulted in tens of thousands of masks being made locally, with requests filled from Warm Springs to La Pine to Prineville, Melton said now that St. Charles has a stockpile, she and the other organizers felt they could pause.

"Getting the masks to the nurses and staff at St. Charles was the first main mission. Once we finally got the hospital administrators on board and and their staff covered, we shifted focus to other agencies," Melton wrote in a Facebook message to the Source. "It began to overwhelm me, as I was the person making all these collections, delivering to facilities to have them cleaned, packaging them individually, and then delivering them. I personally began to feel vulnerable and exposed and not really prioritizing my own safety. So we switched gears, and after discussing it with our little group of admins, we decided to take ourselves out of the equation and have people donate directly to the organization that was requesting masks. It worked, but people were still breaking quarantine and we want people to follow guidelines for safety."

click to enlarge Group organizer Laura Wang posted this image on the COEMM page—a sticker that those who joined the group will be able to pick up at the group's drop-off locations in the coming days to recall their heroic efforts. - COEMM ON FACEBOOK
  • COEMM on Facebook
  • Group organizer Laura Wang posted this image on the COEMM page—a sticker that those who joined the group will be able to pick up at the group's drop-off locations in the coming days to recall their heroic efforts.

On April 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending that people wear masks in public to help slow the spread of novel coronavirus. Today, many local as well as national companies are crafting masks that people can buy—so while many average people are still in need of masks to go about everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, the group organizers say they know those people can get what they need.

"The other major factor that prompted us to put our group on pause is that everyone wants a mask—every individual, every business, every office," Melton said. "Although their need is real and important, our group was designed to bridge a gap for health care workers and agencies that we rely on to have a safe and protected community. Also, in the past two weeks companies have developed online sales for cloth face covers that allow business and corporate companies to purchase masks for their employees (as they should). We didn’t want to turn our grassroots effort into a free for all, it would have been too much for our group. We want COEMM to stay intact so we can be ready when the next big change happens."

click to enlarge The finished products of a Central Oregon mask maker. - ANNE TULLY/COEMM ON FACEBOOK
  • Anne Tully/COEMM on Facebook
  • The finished products of a Central Oregon mask maker.

"We made safety our number one priority and we were safe," wrote organizer Timothy Gorbold on the COEMM page Friday. "We set sewing masks and establishing distribution protocols our second and we certainly delivered with over 31,100 masks reported. We established using crowd sourced 3D printing to make face shields for front line caregivers as our third and we provided 831 into into local organizations. Together, we answered the call to bridge the gap, delivering PPE up and down the Central Oregon corridor, from Warm Springs to La Pine and from Sisters to Prineville. Together we were safe and we provided. Together. We did it."

As of Friday, COEMM drop sites will be closed, but the group reminds people they can drop off masks at these locations for distribution to the wider community:

St Charles mask drop off locations (Open during business hours):

Bend Albertsons North - 1800 NE Third St., Bend
Bend Albertsons South - 6155 S. Hwy 97, Bend
Sisters St. Charles Family Care - 630 N. Arrowleaf Trail, Sisters
Prineville Wagner's Market - 930 N. Main St., Prineville
Redmond Logan's Market - 900 SW 23rd. St., Redmond
Madras Erickson's Thriftway - 561 SW Fourth St., Madras

Mosaic Medical mask drop off locations:

Mosaic Bend:

2084 NE Professional Ct, Bend
600 SW Columbia, Bend

Mosaic Redmond:

111 NW Larch Ave, Redmond

Mosaic Prineville:

375 NW Beaver St., Ste 101, Prineville

Mosaic Madras:

390 SE 10th St., Madras

And for those looking for patterns, here's a video shared by Quiltsmart in La Pine on the COEMM page this week:

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. (Blame her for everything since then.) Favorite car: A Trek commuter bike. Favorite cat: An adopted dog who looks like a Jedi master. Favorite things, besides responding to your comments: Downton Abbey re-runs, Aretha Franklin albums, and pink wine.
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