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Covering the need for face masks

Posted: April 28 2020 at 03:27 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir. of Communications


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Joy Hayag, Deaconness at Christ UMC in Rockford sews handmade face masks to distribute to the community.

As the first cases of COVID-19 were becoming widespread in Illinois, the need for protective masks to help stop the spread of the disease became more urgent. With the new order starting May 1 that requires Illinoisans over age two to wear a face mask in public where six-feet social distancing is not possible, the need is even greater.

Volunteers at many NIC churches are busy working to cover the need by firing up their sewing machines and making handmade masks.

“Early on, Rosecrance issued a plea for masks for their workers and residents,” said Joy Hayag, Deaconess and Director of Children's and Family Ministries at Christ UMC in Rockford. “Members of Christ’s United Methodist Women (UMW) hunted down fabric and elastic and have been producing a weekly donation of masks to ease the need at Rosecrance.” 

Hayag says the project is ongoing and they’ve been able to donate additional masks to ChildServ, the Ronald McDonald House, Carrie Lynn Center, and other workplaces and families. 

“In this day of upheaval and sheltering at home, it takes all of us to be the ’hands and feet’ of Jesus,” said Hayag. “The work of UMW gives the underlying strength of missions of the church as we face the problems in the world and in our communities, reaching out to those who need us.”

Chicago area Korean UMW are participating in the “Making a Mask to Save a Life” movement initiated by the National Network of Korean UMW. So far, they have donated dozens of handmade face masks to nursing homes, healthcare workers and families.  

Under the direction of Spanish Language Coordinator Rosa Villarreal from Nuevo Amanecer UMC (located at First UMC in Des Plaines), UMW members made about 50 cloth face masks and will donate them to a local nursing home.  

NIC UMW leaders noted that churches and members who could not participate in sewing masks donated funds to purchase 600 surgical masks. Masks were purchased and distributed to people in need on April 27, 2020, with the help of The Korean Daily Newspaper in Rolling Meadows. Keeping social distancing in mind, five masks per family were distributed to 120 families. 

Several other local UMW groups made about 200 cloth masks to be distributed to four area nursing homes. The nursing home directors shared that the cloth reusable masks are essential for both senior residents and staff working with the residents. While cloth masks are not recommended to be used in high-risk situations, staff wear them underneath their surgical masks as double protection. 

Korean UMW is also committed to making cloth masks to help the Cornerstone Family Ministries of Tampa, Florida reach their goal for providing 7,000 child-size masks for preschool children. 

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Pat Erickson of Christ UMC in Rockford holds face masks ready to distribute.

In Aurora, UMW members are sewing cloth face masks for local healthcare workers. Flowing Forth’s senior pastor Rev. Derek Rogers proposed the project to congregants who were former members of Fourth Street UMC’s quilt-making group. (Fourth Street UMC in Aurora merged with Flowing Grace UMC in Aurora in 2018 to form Flowing Forth UMC.)

Mona Middleton of Montgomery provided some material, then found a mask pattern online and made a few samples. Marsha Simmons of Aurora also contributed material, and Louise Hari of Montgomery joined Middleton and Simmons to sew 25 masks using their home sewing machines.

According to Hari, cutting material and sewing each mask required about 30 minutes and some masks included earpieces and head straps. She gave two masks to family members and delivered 23 to Phil Rogers, a Flowing Forth congregant and associate vice president of pharmacy services at Edward Hospital in Naperville to share with workers there.

"Some (members) from our sewing group have been hard at work making masks the last few weeks,” Rev. Rogers said. “We celebrate their care and compassion!"

Church Members Fill the Need

Crystal Lilley of First UMC in Princeton had an idea to distribute face masks to people in need. “When the shelter-at-home directive first came into play, Crystal decided to start working with her sewing machine,” said Rev. Ryan Sutton, Princeton First UMC's senior pastor. “She wanted to make sure she and her family had reusable face masks if needed in the future. She mentioned this to others, who then asked her to make some for them. She has since mailed them to people states away.”

When Illinois’ Governor J.B. Pritzker stated that everyone should wear face masks in public starting in May, Crystal decided to get the word out that her face masks were available. 

“Material and elastic have been donated to the cause, and as of April 26, Crystal has made 880 face masks!” said Sutton. “Her idea was to string a line outside the main entrance to the church and attach individual baggies containing a washable face mask in each. People are encouraged to only take one per family member, and if desired, to give a free-will donation to the church’s mission program to help others in this crisis.”

The day after the announcement was made about the masks during the church’s recorded worship service, more than 60 masks were picked up in the church parking lot, said Sutton.  “A big ‘thank you’ to Crystal for working tirelessly to help others have what is needed to keep them safe,” he added. 

The craft group at Ravenswood UMC in Chicago is participating in the “Citywide Cloth Mask Drive.”  Through May 16, residents can make and donate homemade cloth masks that will be provided to homeless shelters, community health clinics, essential public sector workers, and other organizations to prevent outbreaks among the City’s most high-risk residents, which data has shown to be vulnerable residents on Chicago’s South and West Side communities.

Ravenswood is collecting washed or new fabric and elastic materials and seeking volunteer sewers. To volunteer or donate material, please email Yuko Darcy at yukochcago@gmail.com. Learn more about Chicago’s mask drive, instructions, and drop off locations by clicking here.

Many other NIC church members are making masks and donating to their communities. Some churches, like Woodstock UMC, have a unique connection to workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, and their church quilting committee and other volunteers acted quickly to help. 

"One of [our] church members is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force," said Hyujae (Jae) Lee​, Pastor, Woodstock UMC, adding that the colonel was part of a mobilization to help build an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center. "The colonel requested us to make face masks for the soldiers and we gave her a bunch of masks."

Lee continues to post on the church and community Facebook pages to announce their face mask ministry. "So far, I think we have made nearly 70 face masks," he said. 

The Midwest Mission Distribution Center has an immediate need for masks. They have provided instructions and sewing patterns for face masks. Click here for the pdf. To watch an instructional video, click here. They may be mailed to:

Midwest Mission Distribution Center
1001 Mission Drive 
Pawnee, IL. 62558
Phone: 217.483.7911 (call to see pick-up locations)

Not able to sew? No worries. Midwest Mission will graciously accept monetary donations to purchase N95 masks in bulk from our manufacturer. Just $5 will keep one individual safe from the spread of COVID-19. Click to make your donation.

Guidelines on Face Masks

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Crystal Lilley (right) of First United Methodist Church in Princeton strings her handmade face masks outside the church ready for curbside pick-up.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) website, all Illinoisans should wear a mask or face covering when they must leave their home or report to work for essential operations and they either cannot or it is impractical to maintain 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others. 

*Examples include:

  • Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies,
  • Picking up food from the drive-thru or curbside pickup,
  • While visiting your health care provider,
  • Traveling on public transportation,
  • Interacting with customers, clients, or coworkers at essential businesses,
  • Performing essential services for state and local government agencies, such as laboratory testing, where close interactions with other people are unavoidable, and 
  • When feeling sick, coughing, or sneezing.


Best Practices for Homemade Masks or Face Coverings

  • Using materials available at home or buying materials online to avoid exposure in public places.
  • Purchasing masks made by small businesses, saving medical masks for health care workers and potentially helping the local economy.
  • Making masks from materials that will hold up to daily washing and drying. Wash and dry newly sewn masks before using them for the first time. 
  • Having more than one mask per person so they can be laundered daily. This will also be helpful if your mask becomes wet, damaged, or no longer fits and you need to replace it. 
  • Washing your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water before putting on a mask, immediately after removing it, or if you touch the mask while using it.
  • The mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose. A metal wire sewn or built into the mask will help it conform to the bridge of your nose. 
  • Avoiding touching the mask while using it. If you do wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Replacing your mask when wet, damaged or it no longer fits your face. Masks should not be worn damp or when wet from spit or mucus.
  • Try to avoid touching the outer surface of the mask when removing it. Remove the mask by untying it or unfastening the ear loops. Place it in a bag or bin away from small children or pets until it can be laundered.

*Source IDPH Website

If you are looking for more resources and information on how to make your own mask or face covering, visit the IDPH website by clicking here.

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