WP Masker Aid
Winter Park Masks Strong Unmasks WP Generosity
by Anne Mooney / May 22, 2020
In a feel-good story all its own, two former arch-rivals, Kim Allen and Sandy Womble, have joined forces to lead a loosely organized, organically grown group of local volunteers to sew and distribute cotton masks. It’s called Winter Park Masks Strong. According to the mask makers, together Kim and Sandy form “the glue” that holds the effort together and keeps it moving. They even have a Facebook page – Winter Park FL Masks Strong. Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/228128931582495/
Two Hundred Masks?
It began for Ruth Heine on March 22nd, when she received a call from Father John Bluett of St. Stephens. He knew Ruth was an accomplished seamstress and he asked if she would sew some cotton masks — 200 of them – for Seminole County Health Department healthcare workers.
Ruth said, at first, she couldn’t conceive of making so many masks. She consulted YouTube, found the information she needed and whipped out those 200 masks in two or three days. Gaining momentum, Ruth called her friends and began taking requests for masks. She then sent an email blast to the Orlando Garden Club to offer masks.
Almost 1,000 Masks Later . . .
Initially, the masks were made from materials Ruth had on hand. Soon, however, she found materials, especially quarter-inch flat elastic, difficult to find. Word of the shortage reached Pat Estes, who had retreated to Kentucky to be near family during the pandemic. Pat went to her local sewing supply store, found 28 yards of elastic and sent it to Ruth. In a gesture of gratitude, Ruth sent 35 masks to Pat’s daughter-in-law’s veterinary practice in upstate New York. As of this writing, Ruth had made just over 900 masks.
“I will probably hit 1,000 masks if the demand continues and the need is still there,” she said. “I can make about 25 a day. The most I’ve done is around 40.” Recently Winter Park Masks Strong delivered 130 of Ruth’s masks to workers at Vitas Hospice.
Winter Park Masks Strong
Kim Allen and Sandy Womble brought Ruth into their Winter Park Masks Strong group of 15 or 16 men and women who are making masks for people and organizations all over the city. The group describes itself as a band of Winter Park residents who care deeply for our community. A letter included with each bag of masks delivered states, “These masks are for you from our tribe.”
Members of the Tribe Come and Go
Usually, says Kim Allen, when one steps out another steps in to take his or her place. Pannullo’s and Armando’s restaurants got masks made by Melody Cortez from the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. A la Scarlet O’Hara, Melody made over 200 masks out of black curtains she had on hand. Patty Pope made 52 masks for the Winter Park Day Nursery, which stayed open to care for children of essential workers. Christine Girand started making masks, and soon enlisted the help of Jan Hommel and other neighbors.
Ad Hoc Group of Volunteers
People who don’t sew also help. Kim Burst Wood donated designer fabric. Melanie Love and Missy Cassell-Hamby donated bolts of fabric. Kim Allen and Peter Gottfried have cut over 30 yards of fabric. Some volunteers cut, some sew and some deliver.
At first, everyone was doing their own thing, depending upon which YouTube video they consulted. People raided their own supplies of fabric, elastic and thread. The materials acquisition part of the effort sent volunteers on nation-wide searches for supplies. Materials came from friends as far away as Oklahoma and Kentucky. Masculine-looking fabric was in high demand, especially after Melody Cortez ran out of black curtains.
Mask Design Becomes Standardized
Now volunteers are making one pattern with pleats. The pattern comes from the Sewing Studio in Maitland. The fabric, elastic and nose pieces come in kits to be assembled by sewers. Fabric is washed and pre-shrunk and put into cellophane envelopes along with elastic. Two different fabric patterns ensure the wearer knows which side should go toward the face.
City Hall Workers Get Peacock Masks
Kim Allen and Sandy Womble provided masks made of peacock fabric to Winter Park City Hall workers. Retired Advent Health nurse Trudy Mitchell delivered masks to workers from ANGCO Highway Stripping who were working on the I-4 Ultimate.
Ruth Heine, who will quantify anything, says, “You can get two masks out of one yard of elastic. Two yards of 44-inch-wide fabric will yield 24 masks. All of this is by word of mouth,” she went on. “People I don’t even know have contacted me. I even did a mask for a four-year-old.”
“You’d have thought I was handing out $50 bills!”
Kim Allen recalls walking along Park Avenue, offering masks to restaurant workers who were filling to-go orders. “You’d have thought I was handing out fifty-dollar bills,” she said. “Those people were just thrilled to get masks.” Kim ended up handing out masks to workers at places including Prato, Luma, Umi, Panera, Carrie’s Café and Go Gelato.
When she was asked about the controversy that has arisen about wearing masks, Kim replied simply, “You wear your seatbelt when you drive, don’t you?”
“I feel this is one thing we have in common – to keep each other safe – regardless of our other beliefs,” said Ruth Heine.
3,000 Masks Later
Since March, this group of volunteers has made and distributed nearly 3,000 masks. It has all been by word of mouth. WP Masks Strong is not incorporated, but they will accept donations, as materials are surprisingly expensive. A single spool of thread, for instance, can cost as much as $5.00. To donate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Or go to their Facebook page, Winter Park FL Masks Strong, and say thanks.
This is wonderful! My church in Winter Park also has a group making masks and they just hit the 1,000 mask mark this past week. It is great to see folks coming together and helping.
Heart warming story . . .
Congratulations, tribe. These are beautiful! I know this pattern & have made & distributed 200 of them so if you need more sewers, ok to hive me a call. I haven’t put away my sewing machine yet! But I am totally out of fabric & elastic. I have extra thread if you need it!
These ladies – and Peter! – are the quintessential public servants. They saw a need, they had a skill, they went to work. Very inspiring. Thank you.
Melody Cortez is my Daughter. So proud of her contributions.
This is the most uplifting news I’ve heard! I’m so proud of all of you for your creativity and selfless desire – working together to protect thousands of individuals is no small accomplishment! You are saving countless lives! I loved Kim’s comment! – “You wear your seatbelt when you drive, don’t you?”
The whole community is sporting these lovely masks. Thanks for the
thoughtful and colorful protection WP Masks Strong
Great story. Loved reading about the wonderful effort by these Winter Park volunteers to help people that need masks have them. Bravo!
Think there are many doing this, Nancy has made over 200 masks and asked for donations to the Woman’s Club of Winter Park. The Club brought together a few of the members at the club, social distanced with their sewing machines, some with their scissors, cutting, pinning and stitching.
Their rental income is a big part of their revenue and they have had cancellations and returned deposits, some folk have postponed. Good news is the Woman’s Club has moved ahead with their Scholarship program, over $30K in scholarships or areas students.
I would like to acknowledge others in our community making masks. It is good to see so much good in our community. Jack mentioned Nancy Miles work of over 200 masks. They are masterpieces. Kristin Pategas of Hortus Oasis, has made 70 masks from her stash of former sewing projects and forwarded donations to Winter Park Blooms. Now our hope is that we will all wear them…if not for yourself for those in your community and the healthcare workers that may be exposed if they have to care for you. Love Winter Park!
Bravo to all who are contributing to this project ! You make our
community proud !!!