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Hastings women make face masks for community, families

Published: Aug. 16, 2020 at 6:03 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - No face mask, no service. That’s becoming more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one group in Hastings is making sure everyone is prepared.

Six women at the Regency Retirement Residence have made about 600 masks so far. Some stayed at the facility. Others are in the hands of family members and nursing homes.

“It’s gratifying to do it. I have always wanted to help where I can, and I just thought this was a good time,” said Carolyn Nowka, one of the mask makers.

The project started when Nowka’s daughter, an occupational therapist, had trouble finding masks for the three nursing homes she works at. Nowka offered to help, and recruited women from Regency she knew could sew.

Berniece Wyman, one of the women involved, got a call from her daughter around the same time that the Hastings Chamber of Commerce needed masks too. Wyman already had some of the materials they needed, so the ladies quickly got to work.

“I think there’s a big need for that, and some of them do not have the availability of a mask,” Wyman said. “So we can provide that for them and give them more safety.”

The women normally make the masks on their own time in their own living spaces. Sunday they got together to demonstrate how it’s done.

The masks come in all sorts of two-sided patterns, from Husker-themes to Charlie Brown. Both sides look different, so people know which part touched their mouth.

“I thought we were going to be in it for a long time, so I did the reverse side with Christmas,” said Sally Smith, a mask maker who sent many masks to family all over the country.

They’re a bit of a process to put together with pinning, sewing, measuring, pleating and ironing. Some take two steps. Others take seven.

Gayle Lysthauge makes a mask with fewer steps. It doesn’t have pleats. Instead, the mask allows more room for the nose by sitting a little more outward from the face.

For some of the women, creating the masks is their way of protecting the community and their families.

“Somebody said to someone, “Oh, I see you’re one of those dumb ones wearing a mask.” We need to think, “well we’re protecting you from us.” So I think we should keep wearing them until this is over with,” Lysthauge said.

Most of the women buy the materials needed for the masks themselves, like the fabric and elastic for the ear loops, and give them away for free.

Regency also put out a basket filled with the homemade masks in the front room of the building for staff, residents or visitors to grab and take with them.

Their work isn’t finished yet. The ladies hope to make masks for students heading back to school. For more information you can call Regency Retirement Residence at 402-461-4098.

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