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Making Masks Meets a Need

Making cloth masks has become the main project of many sewing enthusiasts since the current pandemic began. When it seemed that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would be hard to come by, front-line workers began to look for other options. In Campbell River, the team at one of Communitas’ homes began making cloth masks within a week of the Phase 1 mandate to stay at home. The success of these efforts not only provided them with equipment that would protect them physically but also impacted the morale of their team.

Finding patterns was a challenge. Residential Support Worker (RSW) Sunmi Baek found a pattern on a Korean sewing blog and started making them entirely by hand.

Some of the hand-sewn masks made by Sunmi

“I like to knit and crochet but have very basic sewing skills,” she says. “I like to make things by hand because hand-made things have a special warmth to them that mass-produced things do not.”

At first, she thought she’d just make enough for her colleagues and the people they serve in the home but ended up making 18 of them, almost two for everyone.

“Luckily I had a lot of small bits of fabric that I got from my sister who is a quilter,” she explains. “I was happy to be part of this mask-making project together with Julia and Jennifer who also spent many hours making masks (using sewing machines.)”

Julia and Sunmi show off some of the masks made by staff in the Communitas home in which they work. Dez, who lives in the home, is wearing a mask she made herself.

Sunmi shared the pattern with her colleagues Julia Warkentin and Jennifer Kay and they started creating masks using sewing machines in the home. Over 100 masks were made. Julia explained that some of the fabric was donated by staff and one of the individuals living in the home, other fabric was purchased. She likes the quality of the mask pattern.

“The masks are made of two layers of fabric with a space for a filter to be inserted,” residential support worker, Julia Warkentin explains.

Along with masks to be used in the home, Julia worked on a mask that is an art piece that will serve as a long-term reflection of Communitas experience during the pandemic. This is the art piece in progress

While some staff sewed masks, other staff supported these efforts by ensuring that essential care was being maintained for those living in the home. The completed masks are being used in this home, other Communitas residences on the island, and by staff at the Brandon Centre, the administrative centre for Communitas in Campbell River. Doing this work was more than simply a practical necessity.

“I was grateful to have these projects to work on during these uncertain times. Making something practical that I knew could be used for the health and safety of myself, my co-workers and our supported individuals gave me a great sense of peace,” Julia says.

The completed art piece mask made by Julia and one of the many practical masks made by the staff team.

Jennifer, pictured at the top together with Tanya, agrees. She has been sewing since she was a child and finds the practice to be therapeutic.

“It felt really good to be included in this project,” she says. “I am very thankful to have been a part of it!”

Stacy Waffle Rennie, who manages the home, says it was a good project for her team to be working on together.

Some of the completed masks.

“They all worked in different capacities to make this happen. It was really good for team building during this difficult time,” she says.

Julia says that more masks may be made in the future so that a larger supply is on hand for those in other services provided by Communitas on the island.

Feature photo, top: Jennifer, shown here with Tanya who lives in the home where Jennifer works, says she’s grateful for the opportunity she had to be part of this mask-making project.

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