Debbie Baxter has been a crafter for most of her life, so when the COVID-19 pandemic started she got out her sewing machine and started making masks.
She’s made more than 6,000 masks since the start of the pandemic and continues to place free masks on her front porch at 1686 NW Hopper St. in Roseburg.
“We have little baskets for each size,” she said, adding that there are four sizes. She packages each mask in plastic and has gloves and sanitizer available too.
She said she spent about eight hours a day making masks when the pandemic first started, but when the rules relaxed a little over the summer so did she. However, when masks became mandatory lots of people came to her.
“I stopped counting when I got to 4,000 masks, but then I did the math the other day and it has been over 6,000,” Baxter said.
She uses the same pattern for each mask and has gotten quite fast at creating them.
“If I need to I can probably make 40 or 50 masks in a day,” Baxter said. “It’s a very repetitive thing and you come to a point where you don’t think about it, you just do it.”
The masks are free, but Baxter does accept donations. And if people really want a mask in a certain fabric, she’s been able to accommodate that too.
She was able to make pizza masks for Old Soul Pizza and Bluebird Pizza, where the masks were very much appreciated.
“It fits better and it doesn’t fog up my glasses,” said Zoe Harris at Bluebird Pizza. “Customers always say how cute it is, a pizza mask in a pizza place.”
When Roseburg Public Schools opened its door to some of the elementary schools she was contacted to provide masks for students.
“We were able to hand out some good masks for children that weren’t able to get that,” Baxter said.
Melrose Elementary School Principal Tammy Rasmussen appreciated Baxter’s ability to think beyond just providing safety, but also design in the masks.
“If it’s cute fabric, if it’s glittery or shiny and it’s theirs to keep forever, the kids are more likely to keep the masks on,” Rasmussen said. “That helps keep our school safe.”
Baxter worked as an instructional assistant for the school district for 30 years before she retired. Her husband, Dave, retired from Wolf Creek Job Corps and has helped out as well.
“They are wonderful people and always looking to help out the community,” said Vikki Pennington, a friend and former co-worker of Baxter. “She has worked tirelessly doing this for months.”
Rasmussen said that prior to the schools reopening she reached out to Baxter, who she had worked with in the past, to help provide masks for a retirement home.
“She didn’t just give me a few masks, she gave me 30 masks and different sizes,” Rasmussen said. “She customized it. She just thinks beyond the mask and thinks about the person and what’s going to bring them joy and whats going to make them safe.”