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Coronavirus: ‘Angels’ cranking out masks for ‘forgotten front line’

Angel, Sandy Welbaum, won the honor of smashing Valeria Thorn with a pie last week. CONTRIBUTED
Angel, Sandy Welbaum, won the honor of smashing Valeria Thorn with a pie last week. CONTRIBUTED

The Brookville Sewing Masks Facebook group is “saving lives one stitch at a time,” helping the “forgotten front line” and having a little bit of fun in the process.

Valeria Thorn and Rachel Estep have created one of the strongest mask-making power houses in the area from behind their keyboards in Brookville.

This forgotten front line includes nursing homes workers, truckers, vets, grocery store workers, care providers for immune-comprised people, foster care workers and more, Estep and Thorn said.

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Less than three weeks since forming the group, 6,970 masks have been made and delivered to those forgotten front-line workers. Estep estimated the group now has about 75 to 80 people who have joined to help with every step of the mask-making process.

The duo calls them their angels.

“Angels — get those wings in flight. Apparently your reputation is that of the best around. We know that already but the word is spreading fast. Fasten your halos,” wrote Thorn as her daily words of motivation to the Facebook group.

One of the group’s secrets to success might be that they have fun, with weekly challenges to encourage the angels to hit another goal.

“In this time, right now, it’s also about adding a bit of laughter and a bit of fun,” Thorn said. “Most of our angels are on furlough or they have kids at home or lost their jobs — they have major stressors going on. Some have told me, ‘This is my happy place, this is what makes me feel like I’m contributing.’”

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Last week, Thorn got a pie in the face, of course recorded for the entire Facebook group to enjoy. The weekend prior, Estep had to do cartwheels in her front yard.

The group is only 638 masks away from both Thorn and Estep getting huge buckets of cold water poured on them for a Facebook video.

One of the most beautiful things, Estep said, is that almost none of the helpers are professional sewers. Instead, they are just big-hearted people who broke out their old sewing machines after 10 or 15 years.

Some Angels help with deliveries, some put the kits together, some just cut fabric — but they all help with whatever their skill set might be.

“We have yet to have a surplus, but our angels are amazing,” Thorn said. “Just last week, in a five-day period they produced 2,058 masks.”

When Thorn found out the nursing home where her daughter works was going without proper protective equipment, she knew someone needed to step up.

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“I had an experience that was kind of breathtaking a couple days ago,” Estep said. “I called a local nursing home and I told them, ‘Here’s who I am, here’s what we’re doing. Are you guys in need?’ And (the employee) broke down in tears and she was so grateful and she couldn’t stop thanking me and she said, ‘You have no idea how much this means to us.’”

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The group posts daily “wish lists” across different Facebook communities for plastic storage bags, different fabrics or other supplies needed. Everything is donation-based, as the group does not charge for the masks, no matter the circumstances.

For people who want to help but might not have any supplies or sewing skills, the group is accepting monetary donations — all of which will go back to production, Estep said. To get involved, either join the group on Facebook at “Brookville Sewing Mask Covers” or email brookvillesewingmasks@hotmail.com.

“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Thorn said. “Except we don’t know how long it is or where the finish line is … As long as there is a need we will keep going.”

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