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Helinski Shelter Residents Learn to Sew, Make Masks

Photos Provided Girls at the Helinski Shelter on Wheeling Island are learning to sew and making cloth face masks to distribute to area workers in health-related fields to stop the spread of COVID-19.

WHEELING — Residents of the Helinski Shelter are making cloth face masks as a project that combines learning life skills and helping the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margo Scott, director of the shelter, came up with the idea. She is teaching six girls how to sew the face masks that are being donated to area health care workers.

“I do sew a lot. I thought it was a great opportunity to teach the kids how to use a sewing machine and give back to the community,” she said.

The director, other staff members and the residents have set up an assembly line for the project. Youth Services System operates the emergency shelter for girls, ages 8-17, in the former Blessed Trinity Catholic Church building on North York Street on Wheeling Island.

“We’re trying to make 50 masks by the end of the week,” Scott said. “We are going to drop off 10 at CVS in Martins Ferry and 25 for a nursing home. … We’re sewing as quickly as we can.”

Scott found a pattern for cloth face masks on YouTube. This particular pattern features “a pocket on the inside where you can put gauze or something more protective,” she said.

Nationwide, there is great demand for face masks to protect health care workers during the pandemic. Some medical personnel are placing washable cloth masks over their regulation N95 masks.

Helinski residents are learning to measure, cut and sew fabric for the masks.

“They have never used a sewing machine in their life. This is a life learning process in many ways,” Scott said.

“We do like to teach the children different life skills,” the director added. “Plus, it teaches them to give back.”

The participants are enthusiastic about the sewing project.

“Now they want to make pillows. At the same time, we are making blankets for children at Wheeling Hospital,” she said. “We have a lot of fun with the kids. It is rewarding to watch them learn and grow.”

They are using fabric donated for the mask project by the Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store in St. Clairsville. YSS colleagues and friends have given additional material and supplies needed to make the masks.

“I know so many people who want to help. People are bringing me sewing machines,” Scott said. “It really is a great thing to do.”

The COVID-19 crisis is bringing people together in many ways to help health care workers and others in need.

“It is not just us. It is absolutely a community effort,” Scott said. “You really find out how many caring people there are.”

Llynn Krasco, assistant manager of Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts in St. Clairsville, said the store has been inundated with requests for fabric to make masks.

“We’ve been donating for several days,” she said.

Store employees have lost track of exactly how much fabric they have given out. Most people ask for 2 to 5 yards of fabric, while others are getting whole bolts for use by large groups that are making masks.

“We’ve been donating clearance fabric,” Krasco said. “People call and let us know how many masks they’re making. We make up packages according to what they need. We can bring it out to their cars.”

The free fabric is available “only for donations, not for sale, of masks,” she said.

A lot of different groups are making the cloth masks for hospitals, doctors’ offices, home health care workers, day care centers, nursing homes and fire departments, Krasco said.

“Other people are making masks because they know people who are shut-in and they’re trying to take care of them as well,” she said. “A lot of concern is out there that people be taken care of.”

One person came to the store to get fabric for 4-H groups that have changed their project from making potholders to sewing face masks.

“Everybody is really trying to help and that is great,” Krasco said.

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