NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Medical masks for Middle Tennessee hospitals have been in short supply– a shortage putting the lives of medical personnel on the front lines of Covid-19 in jeopardy.
One morning in March, the news of the shortage caught the attention of June Kingsbury, a costume designer and adjunct professor at Lipscomb University.
“I can make masks, I know people who can make masks. I just need to find out if there’s somewhere to give them to,” said June.
June reached out to five friends and formed MedThreads Volunteers Nashville on Facebook. It’s not your typical volunteer group.
Another volunteer, Nora Brown, is a jewelry designer and metalsmith. Nora has been doing production manufacturing in the apparel industry for over 25 years.
“For MedThreads, I do product development, troubleshoot patterns. I do tech packs, production sewing, basically whatever is needed,” said Nora.
The mask pattern Nora first found on the internet for hospital workers didn’t fit well.
“What we quickly discovered was it was too short. When you talk your nose kept getting exposed,” said Nora.
So, she created numerous mask patterns to meet different needs– from those with pockets for N95 filters– to masks to cover and protect scarce N95 masks to extend their use.
Lori Gann-Smith, the costume manager at Nashville Repertory Theatre, makes the kits for the MedThreads volunteers to create masks.
“I am the shipping point person. I have also done some tutorials for our volunteers on how to make different kinds of masks,” said Lori. “I think the tutorials help with consistency, I think the tutorials help with maybe people who wouldn’t have done it. They do so we have more sewers who are willing because they can watch that little tutorial and feel confident.”
Teresa Driver is a professional production stage manager. For MedThreads, she’s the main admin for the Facebook page.
“I manage the volunteer crew drivers and I also coordinate the delivery and pick up of our mask kits and our completed masks,” said Teresa.
Volunteer Stacy Vetter, a retired healthcare industry professional, recieves the majority of masks and redistributes them according to facility requests.
Lea Maitlin is Director of Marketing and Brand Engagement for Nashville Opera.
“For MedThreads, I manage all operations and communication.”
Lea takes a facility’s mask request and on Facebook puts the call for action to get volunteers sewing, plus follows on their progress.
“We’ve supplied 12,442 masks, mask covers, and ear savers to 48 different facilities throughout Middle Tennessee. But there’s about 500 stitchers in the group who are sewing masks for facilities that aren’t coming through our system so we can’t even count our impact,” said Lea.
Staff from Meharry Medical College running Metro Nashville’s drive up Covid-19 assessment centers rely on some of the 800 masks MedThreads has provided for them.
“I’ve been asked if I want to accept money for it and I don’t because I feel like everybody deserves to have a mask. Everybody deserves to have that additional layer of protection and safety,” said June.
If you’d like to donate materials, volunteer, or need masks made for your facility visit MedThreads’ website.