Masking the village — Yellow Springs bands together to fight the virus

“We are truly trying to pull together as a community to make sure the community is masked,” volunteer says.

One is thing is for certain: Yellow Springs knows how to rally the troops.

“When there is a problem, people jump in to solve it,” said Chris Powell, the leader of the village’s Days for Girls chapter. “That’s been the history of the town.”

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Sewing enthusiasts and other volunteers in the Greene County village of just more than 3,700 people have rallied to make more than 1,200 face masks for anyone in Yellow Springs and beyond who needs them curing the coronavirus outbreak.

Powell and members of her group — an organization that in typical times makes sustainable menstrual care kits — are among a group of about 60 people making, distributing, ironing and washing cloth masks as part of an effort spearheaded by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

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“They range from people who are hobby sewers to professional seamstresses to professional costume makers in theater and opera,” Melissa Heston, outreach manager for the foundation. “We have got an incredible network of sewers.”

The free masks, designed to lessen the risk of catching the coronavirus, are being made for residents of the village, Miami Twp. and the Greene County Public Health District, which is distributing them throughout the county.

Local artist Kate Hamilton established the Facebook group, YS Face Mask Makers, as part of a multifaceted, villiage-wide effort that includes financial support for needy individuals and businesses and supplemental food to families through the Yellow Springs Community Food Pantry.

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Heston said Yellow Springs’ business, community and religious leaders began working on a plan on March 13 as the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the state began to take shape and become visible.

A needs assessment was done in each of the village’s neighborhoods, which each contain 30 to 100 people, she said.

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“We are hoping it will be on-going now that we have a whole network of people together,” Heston said of the effort.

Masks for first responders, the elderly and vulnerable, ‘boots on the ground’ community volunteers and essential workers take priority.

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Those who have received the masks include employees at Tom’s Market downtown and the Dollar General as well as restaurant workers offering carry-out.

Yellow Springs resident Katie Rose Wright, one of the group’s chief volunteers, said she is glad skills honed since childhood are helping the community.

“My parents truly thought it was important to have hands-on skills,” said the daughter of Mike Wright and Carol Anne Freeman. She said she has sewn as long as she can remember. Her family each year makes reenactment costumes for the Fair at New Boston, for the 1790s-to-1820s era.

She made and sold scrunchies as a kid and now, at 37, Wright makes about 500 cotton welding hats a year for her brother, Joe Wright of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and his friends.

In exchange for the safety hats, many of which are made from fabric with whimsical designs, Wright said her brother buys her a plane ticket each year to visit him. “It’s a good sibling exchange,” she said.

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“We are truly trying to pull together as a community to make sure the community is masked. We are doing all we can to met that needs. We are going as fast as we can,” she said. “It is really about coming together as a community and supporting each other. Through masks, we are trying to bring a little joy and lower the stress.”

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