Hearing that masks were in short supply because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Oregon Serigraphics owner Stephanie LaFleur had an idea.
Maybe it’s because her company is all about “chill people who make stuff,” like custom printing and logo designs, as it advertises on its website.
Maybe it’s because her company has a habit of giving to the community, such as when it donated about 9,000 “I am UCC” T-shirts after the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015.
Whatever the reason, LaFleur’s idea worked, and others in the community quickly hopped on board. Jo-Ann Fabric offered a discount on cloth. North River Jet Boats cut the fabric to specifications. Then Oregon Serigraphics bundled the fabric pieces with elastic cord and instructions.
Within minutes of posting a Facebook request for sewers, LaFleur had more than 30 volunteers. They call themselves the Umpqua Sewing Warriors. From noon to 3 p.m. each Saturday, kits with materials to make 25 masks in each are left on the doorstep at Oregon Serigraphics, 333 NE Jackson St., Roseburg.
Oregon Serigraphics runs the cloth through high temperature dryers at 300 degrees before bagging them into kits. It also runs the completed masks through the dryers before donating them.
LaFleur cautions that sewers should not take the masks directly to a healthcare provider or the hospital. Those who take the kits are asked to return the completed masks to Oregon Serigraphics, which will donate them to the Douglas Public Health Network.
LaFleur hopes to have about 1,500 masks made from the first round of kits.
She said it’s been great to see how many people who have stepped up to help with the project, and it feels good to respond in a creative way to an unfamiliar situation.
“It’s rewarding at the end of the day,” LaFleur said.
Aleta McGee of Roseburg has been picking up kits to bring to sewers who don’t want to leave their homes and has been sewing some masks herself.
She said the first masks she made for the project were a bit complicated, but with a new, simpler pattern from the Deaconess hospital in Indiana, she’s been able to whip through a dozen masks in an hour and a half.
If you can put your foot on the sewing machine pedal and hold to a straight line, you can make these masks, she said.
McGee said she just wishes the sewers could join together in a sewing circle, play some great music and enjoy having a conversation while they make masks.
But she said even if they must sew in isolation, it still feels good to work together to meet a community need.
For McGee, it’s all part of a bigger picture.
“There’s people out there doing lovely, lovely things and caring for each other in ways I’m sure we don’t even know about,” she said.
Sylvia Killeby, of Umpqua, said she and her daughter Cynde Pakros are planning to sew masks as well.
Pakros was a professional seamstress in Los Angeles before moving to Umpqua.
“You can bring her a picture of anything you want and she can sew it,” Killeby said.
Killeby said she’s not at the same level as her daughter, but she does create quilts.
When she heard about the project LaFleur had created, she was eager to join. She said it’s an easy way to give something back to the community.
Killeby, who is 78, said she isn’t too worried about the virus, though she’s keeping safe. She was born during World War II and lived through the times of the polio vaccine, smallpox and measles.
“When you’ve had this much experience of life, you don’t get scared as easily,” she said.
For more information, contact Stephanie LaFleur at 541-672-6296 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.