In recent weeks, the United States government, in accordance with the CDC, made it a requirement for citizens to wear a face mask in public spaces, as part of a multifaceted effort to help reduce the number of Coronavirus cases and put an end to the ongoing pandemic. As a result, the demand for masks has spiked, selling out at major retailers. Members of local churches around Indiana took matters into their own hands and began the effort to respond to this imminent and growing need.
Corinth UMC – Muncie
Members at Corinth UMC have been making and donating face masks, including N95, crocheted ear covers, and surgical masks to communities in need. One member sewed 500 masks, which she donated to Sew and Serve, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit committed to furnishing communities in need with personal protective equipment to help fight the spread of the Coronavirus.
Logansport First UMC – Logansport
Rev. Beth Ann Cook, Senior Pastor at Logansport First UMC says that she has been making masks at the start of the pandemic. She and members of her congregation have been sewing and providing masks to people in need of protective equipment throughout Cass County, including a local hospital. “I am making masks and we have many members who are,” said Beth. “We have members who are professionals at Logansport Memorial Hospital.”
Through church connections, Beth learned that medical professionals in Tell City needed assistance with PPE. So far, the church has provided hundreds of masks to assist their efforts.
She added, “We have also given masks to area nursing homes and through agencies.”
Masks are kept in individual plastic bags for safe keeping and with each mask comes a note that reads “May this mask protect you and bless you in this time of need.”
Faith UMC – Fort Wayne
Faith UMC Senior Pastor, Rev. Melissa Fisher, is one of the founders of the Southeast Fort Wayne Community Response (SFWCR), a grassroots effort to help improve socio-economic conditions in Fort Wayne’s Southeast side, one of the most vulnerable communities in the city.
In tangent with other local church churches and the Fort Wayne NAACP, this effort has provided more than 4,000 masks to Parkview Hospital as well as citizens in need.
“ I am humbled that God has called me to love people during these really tough times,” said Fisher.
Bethel UMC – Fort Wayne
Carol Barton, SPRT chair for Bethel UMC in Fort Wayne, got right to work when Parkview Regional Hospital claimed they were experiencing a shortage of face masks to help protect their staff and patients from the Coronavirus. She made several trips to the hospital to pick up kits to make masks and return them to the facility. Shortly after, the hospital reported they would suspend the distribution of kits due to the overwhelming response from local helpers.
“The fourth day I went to pick up a kit, there was a sign that said due to the overwhelming response they suspended giving out the kits,” said Carol.
But this was great opportunity for those who have a heart for giving generously.
“One of our ladies from church was so happy to have a project to do that she put together 100 face masks within just three days. She is 85-years old and currently sheltering in place.”
Another volunteer made 50 masks. Volunteers continue to make masks for family and friends in anticipation of worship services starting in the near future.
Evangelical UMC – Huntington
A group of sewers at Huntington Evangelical UMC have crafted hundreds of masks to help residents and agencies combat the spread of the Coronavirus. It all started when a friend of Senior Pastor Rev. Marti Lundy, who works as a nurse at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, expressed that the hospital was in need of face masks.
“She put the word out and a group from church started sewing cotton masks,” said Dee Swing, one of the sewers. Soon, they were donating masks to anyone in need. “We also made masks for Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Heritage of Huntington, several individuals and small businesses. We are now making them for our congregation when we are able to worship in person.”
Dee was joined by her church sisters Kathleen Scribner, Jane Woehler, and Stephanie Jerabek.
She added, “Our combined efforts have netted between 700 to 800 masks that have been or will be donated.”
Mt. Sinai UMC – Aurora
Judy Mosier, a member Mt. Sinai UMC in Aurora, Indiana who normally sews dresses and shorts out of pillowcases to donate to children around the world, has now converted to making masks for people and businesses in her community.
Judy’s cohort of retired teachers and friends normally sew at a local community center Since the start of the lockdown prompted the Coronavirus pandemic that center has since closed to the public. After a request from Senior Pastor Lajo Dunbar, Judy began making masks in her home.
“Why not make masks? Because we cannot make dresses,” Judy said. An avid seamstress, Judy take pride in sharing about her passion, describing the time and attention detail she put in masks she creates. She makes the masks out two pieces of cotton fabric and adds a piece pellon in between to prevent moisture from breaking through — which is key in combating the the spread of the Coronavirus.
“I love sew. It doesn’t really matter to me if i’m making short or dresses for children or making masks for families.”
When social distancing guidelines were enacted to help stave off the virus and keep hospitals from being inundated with new cases, Judy was getting requests for 30 or 40 masks at a time. The requests have decreased and now, Judy is focused on furnishing masks for families and fellow church members.
She said, “Our pastor ordered masks for our congregation. She ordered masks for adults and children. I am currently making masks for the children.”
Her team members include women from all walks of life and spiritual beliefs. Judy says they each have their reasons for taking part in this mission opportunity, but she still finds hope in that fact that they have come together to help make a different in their community.
“I’m over 65, so to be useful and to know that regardless of whether you’re staying at home or worshipping together, you can find ways to be in ministry.”
She continued, “Our pastor always says ‘go be the Church’ and I feel like this is an opportunity to be the Church.
Ames Chapel UMC – Paoli
Ames Chapel UMC in Paoli, Indiana, has supported a vibrant, extensive ministry making hospital gowns for children and smaller patients at IU Health Paoli Hospital. Volunteers had made 35 gowns when they were forced to halt their operation due to difficulties caused by the pandemic. Since then, the church has turned its focus to creating masks for community members in need.
“This all began with a request from Southern Indiana Community Health Care, a non-profit, health center serving Orange and Crawford Counties, for a drop-off location at Springs Valley UMC for masks to be used in the community, “ said Rev. Dennis Adams, Lead Pastor at Ames Chapel UMC and three other local churches in the region.
He continued, “They asked ‘did I know of any church members who could make masks?’ The mission continued to grow after that.”
His wife Barbara has spearheaded the effort. “She is making masks and giving them out right and left to church family, elderly, local JayC Food Store, employees, etc. She has been a blessing in our rural community.”
Broadway UMC – Indianapolis
“Masketeers” at Broadway UMC in Indianapolis began their volunteer effort by making cloth masks for their families, friends, and their neighbors at Maple Fall Creek Place. But as the need for protective equipment grew, they quickly realized that they had the opportunity to make an even greater impact.
Rev. Cyndi Alte, a retired Elder and masketeer, shared, “When it became apparent that wearing masks was one of those ways to navigate, a church zoom conversation got us thinking: We have the capability to make masks and the capacity to make lots of them.”
But the team would quickly realize the size of the mission before them. “Some of us contracted area organizations to ascertain if they had a need for masks.” Cyndi added, “The response was an overwhelming YES. So the masketeers began their work.”
In comparison to some United Methodist churches that are currently working to sew masks for their neighbors, Broadway has several talented individuals willing to serve this cause in a variety of ways. Together, they have assembled a well-oiled volunteer system.
“There are seven of us stitching masks and three support folks who cut and iron fabric, as well as repair our sewing machines. And we have another support person who contacts local organizations to assess their needs and arrange for distribution. All of us were experienced seamstresses, with the exception of one.”
And their level of experience has helped them make a significant impact throughout their community. In just three weeks, the church has provided masks to several organizations.
“To date we have made 300 masks – adult, teen and children. At 20 minutes a piece, that’s 6,000 minutes (or 100 people hours) to extend a bit of support and love for our neighbors during this pandemic.”
Like other churches in the Indiana Conference, they are also focused on making sure they have enough masks in stock when prompted to re-open the church building. In the meantime, they are making the most of this opportunity to touch lives, make a difference, and be the Church.
Cyndi added, “We’ve described our work in various ways – powerful, contributing in our own ways, positive, Holy Spirit-led and holy. Sometimes the pandemic is overwhelming, and making masks alleviates the sense of frustration with a sense of gratitude.”