Thursday, 13 August 2020

Volunteers make 300 masks using donated materials

Volunteers make 300 masks using donated materials

A GROUP of Watlington residents are making masks for members of the community who need them.

The Watlington Community Mask Tree has now made about 300 masks since it first began sewing them at the start of the month.

They will become compulsory from today (Friday) in shops nationwide.

Joy Kellaway, of Church Street, initially began making scrub kit bags for NHS workers with neighbour Jackie Gaff.

They then switched to making masks and where joined by Karen Higgs, Christine Harrop, Lizzie Hilton, Carolyn Plaistowe, Ann Sibly and Mary O’Donovan.

Mrs Kellaway said when the pandemic hit the country the UK Crafters — Oxfordshire and Central Hub Facebook group appealed to people to make the kit bags.

She and Mrs Gaff made about 40 of these, along with about 30 scrub caps, that were also sent to staff working at the Sue Ryder charity.

Mrs Kellaway said: “The Facebook group then heard about the community mask trees that were being set up across the UK. When the details of that came through it just struck me it was a great way of thanking Watlington and the community here and everything they have been doing.

“There were a lot of people who couldn’t go out, couldn’t make a mask and or couldn’t afford one. Some masks appear to be £10 or more.

“I talked to the parish council and said that we had been making stuff for the NHS and we would love to help Watlington by making face masks.

“I wrote an email for them to send out to all the street co-ordinators in the town to say ‘this is what we’re doing and we’re looking for people who are able to volunteer their time and the use of their sewing machines to make masks with us’.”

Another six people came forward to help and the group appealed for donated cotton to make the masks.

Mrs Kellaway said they were 100 per cent cotton and made from three layers of fabric with elastic. They come in different sizes – for men, women and two sizes for children.

Each mask is washed thoroughly and steam cleaned before being put into a sealed plastic bag. “They are there to help people to feel more confident to go out or go to a hospital or doctors appointment,” said Mrs Kellaway.

“When we knew lockdown was easing up for those who were very vulnerable and had been shielding we all felt for those people having been indoors for however many weeks. They would probably be feeling very concerned about going out and therefore a mask may give them reassurance.

“Everyone has different ways of helping and it’s a lovely feeling being able to put something back into the community and helping people. We’re lucky we have the skills to sew and can help.”

The masks do not stop wearers contracting coronavirus but would prevent them from spreading the disease, she added.

They are available by contacting the parish council or from the Mercy in Action charity shop in High Street for a small donation, or for free if people cannot afford to donate.

Mrs Kellaway said: “It’s however much people can afford. It’s a not-for-profit exercise and if people are happy to donate, great.

“It’s only available to people who live in the Watlington parish. Legally, they have to have them to go into shops and so we will carry on making them as long as we have the support through the donations of materials.

“It is a fabulous community and everybody has been helping their neighbours, or in the next street. Where somebody has said ‘I need help’ people have popped up all over the place and said ‘not a problem’.

“The shops have been fantastic and have been delivering items to people who can’t go out.”

Anyone who can help sew masks should email watlingtonmasktree

Donations of materials should be brought to the council offices in Old School Place.

Meanwhile, a “virtual switchboard” set up by the parish council during the coronavirus pandemic has been closed down.

Parish staff and volunteers manned the line remotely by simple redirection to their own home or mobile phones. Council chairman Matt Reid told a meeting the line was no longer needed.

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